Sometimes when a lot of data is gathered, an argument against the majority can rely on selecting the rarer case.

For example, a medical procedure which usually does more harm than good can be defended by statements from the few it has benefited.

Is there a word or expression for this? It could be "cherry-picking", but that doesn't signify the deception taking place.

  • Assuming it's an accepted fact that the procedure usually does more harm than good, it CAN'T be defended by statements from the few it has benefited - that's just straightforward "misrepresentation" (more appropriately in many contexts, "lying"). Dec 10, 2020 at 17:36
  • Does "an argument against the majority can rely on selecting the rarer case" mean that the outliers are being weighted more heavily? Dec 10, 2020 at 17:47
  • @Cascabel in a statistical or otherwise scientific context, I think this could be misleading, because it might suggest that outliers are literally being weighted more heavily in an analysis or meta-analysis (of some medical intervention), which is a valid statistical procedure in some cases (but not what we have in mind here).
    – legatrix
    Dec 10, 2020 at 17:48
  • (as you may well know already!)
    – legatrix
    Dec 10, 2020 at 17:50
  • 1
    @legatrix Yeah...I was a little confused by the Q, as "cherry-picking" is the term I would normally use for this, but the OP seemed to be discounting it. Dec 10, 2020 at 17:52

1 Answer 1


Cherry-picking is the exact expression used when discussing this problem, including when deception is present. It falls under the general header of QRPs (questionable research practices) in psychology and other sciences---often pertaining specifically to statistical analysis---and came to the fore during the so-called replication crisis which has made great waves in the past 5 years. See the Rationale section at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Preregistration_(science)#Rationale.

  • 1
    Thank you for the excellent link and answer. According to the article, cherry-picking is selective reporting of results, which I imagine is taking the best of the good (patient who recovered and plays in the NBA), not the opposite of the majority (95% had complications but a healthy case is presented). That’s the meaning I fear is lost when using this expression
    – MrMartin
    Dec 10, 2020 at 22:58
  • OK, I see your point now! I guess that sounds like such malicious deception that it goes beyond anything there is a standard term for in scientific practice.
    – legatrix
    Dec 11, 2020 at 7:49
  • 1
    I'm still confused by this Q... Dec 11, 2020 at 20:42

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.