Correlation vs. Causation

Correlation does not necessarily indicate causation. Correlation is a mutual relationship or connection between two or more things. Causation is the relation between an event and a second event, where the second event is understood as a consequence of the first. Many people make the false assumption that when two variables have a positive or negative correlation one causes the other. A correlation may be in fact due to causation but it may also be due to a third factor. A third variable, one we may not even consider could be the cause of the correlation. For example, in the August 2009 issue of Shape Magazine the article I found states, “Studies have linked gum disease with heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.” This link could be the result of not flossing, which may cause the positive correlation between gum disease and heart disease. But, there may be a third factor causing the correlation. An example of a third factor may involve diet. A poor diet high in sugar and fat may make you more prone to both gum disease and heart disease, regardless of flossing. A second example would be your genes may make you more prone to both diseases. If those diseases run in the family you may be at a higher risk of developing them. A third example is your culture and environment. If your environment does not allow you to have access to a regular doctor and dentist for checkups this may lead to both diseases. Dental cleanings and preventative care may not be a part of one’s culture. There may even be other factors than those stated that could come into play or be the cause of gum disease and heart disease. People must be aware of the fact that correlation does not necessarily mean causation so they are not misled.

Science ; Statistics ; Math


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