In data analysis, outliers are data points that significantly differ from the rest of the dataset, potentially indicating errors, rare occurrences, or genuine deviations that require special consideration or investigation.
When a data point or observation falls outside the normal range, it is considered by data scientists as an outlier.
They are what most people would simply refer to as being too big or too small in comparison to what is considered normal.
Outliers are therefore considered to be rare or unusual occurrences.
Outliers can sometimes indicate errors made in recording data. They can also mean that there was a flaw in testing the hypothesis used in the study.
It is therefore important to understand the nature of the outliers encountered in a data set before throwing them out.
Identifying outliers can help to identify high or low performers. It can also help data scientists determine what to focus on for their analysis.
Outliers can occur in the real world. The following are some great examples of outliers in real life.
1. Dwarf Giraffes
Giraffes are beautiful animals with their graceful long necks.
At an average height of 16 feet, giraffes are undisputedly the tallest animals in the world.
However, scientists have recently observed two dwarf giraffes in the wild. These two giraffes, spotted in Murchison Falls National Park in Uganda, are 9 feet 4 inches and 9 feet tall.
A dwarf giraffe had also been previously spotted in Namibia. It was 8 feet 6 inches tall.
These giraffes are considered outliers as they are extremely short in comparison to the average giraffe.
2. High Earning Individuals
Different career paths offer different income potentials.
It is possible for graduates to determine how much to aim or ask for when seeking jobs based on the average income of people with similar qualifications and experience.
However, there are instances where talented graduates are offered high-paying jobs.
This occurs to only a handful of graduates and it would be unrealistic to base your hopes on these few rare cases.
For example, not all IT professionals end up earning millions of dollars like Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. These two individuals are outliers in terms of income in the industry.
Figures for life expectancy provide you with an idea of how long most people in a given society live.
However, there are always a few exceptions. Life expectancy in many societies is 70 or 80 years.
Centenarians are a good example of this. These people live to a hundred years and beyond.
They are considered outliers when it comes to human longevity.
Kane Takana of Japan is a supercentenarian. She is the only living person over the age of 117.
4. Pain Insensitivity
The sensation of pain helps us to take action to avoid getting hurt. It is a sensation people are born with.
However, scientists have discovered a small population of people that lack pain sensitivity.
One of the first cases discovered with this rare lack of pain sensitivity was in Pakistan.
Scientists attribute the lack of sensitivity to a mutation in their genes resulting in a rare genetic disorder.
5. Short Sleepers
It is recommended that humans get at least 8 hours of sleep in order to function at optimum productivity. Most people need 8 or more hours of sleep to thrive.
However, a small group of individuals thrives on less than 6 hours of sleep a night.
These rare individuals have come to be known by scientists as short sleepers.
These people have been noted to have certain traits such as being energetic, ambitious, and upbeat.
Researchers link this trait to a mutation to the hDEC9 gene. This gene plays a vital role in down-regulating certain genes.
Some notable figures in history who are thought to have been short sleepers include Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci.
6. Fraud Detection
The concept of outliers is applied in the world of finance to detect fraud. Fraud investigators look for anomalies in data to detect cases of fraud.
For example, if a person has been known to spend between $500 and $1000 a month using their credit card over several years, a sudden spike in spending e.g. $5000 or more would be considered an anomaly.
This could be an indication of a case of identity theft and credit card fraud.
7. Detection Of Data Breaches And Cyber Attacks
Data breaches can also be detected as a result of outliers. For example, if someone is trying to transfer or copy data from a remote machine, it would result in increased activity on the local server.
The detection of this spike in activity can be flagged by the system as a potential cyber attack.
There you have it; 7 examples of outliers in real life. Outliers may be considered unusual or abnormal but they do occur often in various aspects of our lives and are worth studying.