Correlation v. Causation

The world today is inundated with data. What with the internet putting numbers at our fingertips and giving anyone the opportunity to spread information, it's really important to understand the difference between correlation and causation. Correlation means that things seem to move together in terms of data fluctuations. It doesn't mean that one thing causes another, or vice versa. Being a psych student, they really drill this into you.

Conflating correlation and causation can lead to making dangerous assumptions. There are people refusing to vaccinate their children based on the idea that it might be linked to autism, when really, most scientists agree that there is no causal relationship, and the rise in autism is more likely a result of better diagnosis and understanding of the broad autism spectrum, as well as the heightened desire for parents to have their children who may be exhibiting symptoms to see a health professional, which just happened to be timed alongside more compulsory vaccines. There is, however, a very real causal relationship between a lack of vaccinations and a rise in illness.

Although the Correlation/Causation discussion tends to be pretty serious in academia, it can also be hilarious. Check out these hilarious correlations-- that would be really hilarious if you were to propose that correlation is the same as causation. For example, the Marriage rate in Alabama has a .9 correlation with the rate of death by powerline electrocutions. Wanna save some lives? Tell people not to get married in Alabama, and there will be one less death by powerline electrocution.

Sure, it might be a totally dorky thing to find amusing, but I thought I'd share it anyway!

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  1. Oh my gosh...this is great! As a statistics minor, I definitely appreciate this post. My favorite is the divorce rate in Maine vs. margarine consumption LOL. These charts would have been so much funnier if half of them weren't about death, but hey, I guess that's an easy stat to find.
    xoxo Chloe | Wanderlust in the Midwest

  2. SAVE THE MARRIAGES! STOP EATING MARGARINE! lol, but really though, some of these are hilarious. I also have seen a page where people correlate graphs with mountaintops and it's hilarious.

  3. AHHH THANK YOU FOR POSTING THIS! It is so important for everyone to know the difference. I'm sick of hearing "Oh did you know that ___ causes ___?!?" Scientific literacy is important :P

  4. right?? People's fact-checking ability ca be super low and headlines lead to a ton of misinformation