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Correlation Does Not Mean Causation

If you read any news articles at all, especially describing ‘scientific’ studies, there are things you have to be careful about.  This, is one of the most important.

Correlation Does Not Mean Causation

So what does that mean? Well, here goes my short and dirty description:

Correlation means that two things occur in a related way somehow, usually in the sense that they occur together, or at the same time.

For example, the more money people make, the bigger their houses usually are.  That’s a correlation.

Causation means if A happens, then B will occur. If you kick a ball, it will move.

Now, for causation to be valid, there are many rules, and correlation does not always fulfill those requirements.  Its hard to explain, so I will use an example again.

Here is the oldest example in the book:

– The more firefighters at a fire, the bigger the fire tends to be.
– Therefore, firefighters cause fires.

Can you see a problem here? I hope so.


In my world, health care, it gets ridiculous.  Like the debate about fasting.  People who skip breakfast are often overweight.  Therefore, skipping breakfast makes you fat.  Really?  Or is it because people who skip breakfast tend to be busy, or lazy, or don’t really care about their health?  Here’s a good article with lots of references that shows that not only is skipping meals not terrible for you, but might even have health benefits.

Please remember this whenever you read a news article about how some study found that BLAH BLAH BLAH is associated/related/correlated with BLAH BLAH BLAH.  These studies are helpful, because they give clues, and directions researchers can go in the future.  But other than that, they can’t prove anything.

Want more?  Simply refer to the wikipedia (yes, wikipedia) article on causality. And read this about logical fallacies.

Hope this helps.



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    One Response to Correlation Does Not Mean Causation

    1. John says:

      Thank you so much. This helped so much.

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