Standard Deviation

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Standard Deviation - short version

(1) A measure of variation calculated by taking the square root of the variance.

(2) (α). Measure of the average distance of the data values from their mean. Not the same as sigma level.

(3) A computed measure of vari-ability indicating the spread of the data set around the mean.

(4) Standard deviation is the average distance from each data point to the mean.

Standard Deviation - long version

Standard deviation is a widely used measure of variability or diversity used in statistics and probability theory. It shows how much variation or "dispersion" there is from the average (mean, or expected value). A low standard deviation indicates that the data points tend to be very close to the mean, whereas high standard deviation indicates that the data points are spread out over a large range of values. The standard deviation of a statistical population, data set, or probability distribution is the square root of its variance. It is algebraically simpler though practically less robust than the average absolute deviation. A useful property of standard deviation is that, unlike variance, it is expressed in the same units as the data.

In addition to expressing the variability of a population, standard deviation is commonly used to measure confidence in statistical conclusions. For example, the margin of error in polling data is determined by calculating the expected standard deviation in the results if the same poll were to be conducted multiple times. The reported margin of error is typically about twice the standard deviation ­– the radius of a 95 percent confidence interval. In science, researchers commonly report the standard deviation of experimental data, and only effects that fall far outside the range of standard deviation are considered statistically significant – normal random error or variation in the measurements is in this way distinguished from causal variation. Standard deviation is also important in finance, where the standard deviation on the rate of return on an investment is a measure of the volatility of the investment.


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