I got a misunderstanding regarding basic statistics (I think) but I can't get my head around that: I did an online survey regarding the usage of some application. The user could answer 1 (I don't know that application), 2 (I know that) or 3 (I use that). Now I want to know, how many applications the average user uses:


where df['iuse'] was calculated as the count of answer 3 in one returned answer. The result is something like 2.2.

Now, I want to know, how many applications a user of application X uses:

f = df['q1_1'] == 3 # For application 1, filter all answers where the user uses that

That returns a number above 2.2 - for every single app: In short (and ugly):

[(4.235294117647059, 85),
 (4.966666666666667, 60),
 (2.7495274102079397, 1058),
 (4.609195402298851, 87),
 (6.391304347826087, 23),
 (4.122950819672131, 122),
 (4.850746268656716, 67),
 (3.1860068259385668, 586),
 (2.72192513368984, 1122),
 (3.520231213872832, 346),
 (4.276595744680851, 94)]

(left is the mean, and right is the count of answers for that application)

Now: Why is the usage overall less than the usage when seen from a specific application? I would expect to have at least some numbers below the total mean, but they are all above that. I'm confused :(

Thanks for any pointers and help Klaus

  • $\begingroup$ First: The answer in iuse is encoded (by you) as a number, but it is a so called categorical value. That means that you cannot apply just any operator on it: Not equal works, but a mean definitely does not. For the connoisseur: It seems ordinal, so you could rank it. Second: Could you include a sample of your dataframe? $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 13:00
  • $\begingroup$ OP: it would be clearer if you provided a sample frame. @SvanBalen, it sounds like the 'iuse' column has been generated. Each row is a user/response, with columns for each answer, like 'q1_1', and those are encoded 1/2/3; but 'iuse' then is just a row-wise count of qi_j==3. $\endgroup$
    – Ben Reiniger
    Mar 3, 2020 at 14:42
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks guys, I'll make sure to include a better example next time, but for now @BenReiniger has given a good explanation $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 16:50
  • $\begingroup$ @BenReiniger Yes it could be a derived feature. Nevertheless it remains a categorial value, and taking the mean is... wait for it ... meaningless $\endgroup$ Mar 4, 2020 at 13:18
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ @SvanBalen 'iuse' is a count variable; discrete, but numerical, not categorical. The mean of that is perfectly sensible. I'd agree about the mean of any of the qi_j's... $\endgroup$
    – Ben Reiniger
    Mar 4, 2020 at 13:26

1 Answer 1


This is not necessarily unexpected (or broken). Imagine that users tend to use none or all of the applications. For a specific example, suppose 90 users use no apps at all, and 10 use all (say) 11 of them.

Then the average apps used by a user is $(90\cdot0+10\cdot11)/100=1.1$, but for each app, the average app-usage of a user who uses that app is $(10\cdot11)/10=11$. (In your case, for a sanity check maybe compute the number of users who use no apps.)

  • $\begingroup$ Thanks, that seems to explain it (at last for now :)) $\endgroup$ Mar 3, 2020 at 16:49

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