This is one of the central tenants of any Statistics course: just because to things appear to be related does not mean that one causes the other. This CNN news piece linking a variety of food consumption to depression falls into this trap. This is perhaps one of the most common mistakes in the popular understanding of statistics, with quite a few dire consequences. Part of this problem comes from the fact that you can often find a relationship between obviously unrelated things, just because of how their individual trends just happen to coincidentally line up.
For an awesome example of this, check out Spurious Correlations, a website that takes real data and finds ridiculous correlations between them. For example, did you know that the marriage rate in Kentucky can be a very strong predictor of the number of people who drown after falling out of a fishing boat? Or that the United States decrease in oil imports from Norway seems to cause fewer drivers to die in a collision with a railway train? Or that there’s a clear link to the precipitation rate in Tompkins County and the number of trip/slip related deaths in male Texans?
You can try and find your own correlations as well. If you find something good, post it here!
2 thoughts on “Musing: Correlation shalt not Imply Causation”
absolutely fascinating. I love the “spurious correlations” site. – Mihal
On Fri, May 9, 2014 at 8:52 PM, Assignments and Mathematical Musings from
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