Causation vs. Correlation – 69

I drove to Alabama. Listened to audio books and podcasts. Make use of this kind of time to self educate. This time I listened to the audio book Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction by Philip E. Tetlock and Dan Gardner. Great book, review coming soon.

Biking, kayaking and running is a form of meditation to me. Sometimes it’s good to take the headphones off and be with yourself. Balance self educating with meditating. Exercise as much as possible. Walking is one of my absolute favorite ways to think and move. But you need to walk for a couple hours to get a good workout in. I’d say minimum 1.5 hrs.

For any two correlated events, A and B, the following relationships are possible:

A causes B; (direct causation)
B causes A; (reverse causation)
A and B are consequences of a common cause, but do not cause each other;
A causes B and B causes A (bidirectional or cyclic causation);
A causes C which causes B (indirect causation);
There is no connection between A and B; the correlation is a coincidence.

Definitions: (

Correlation – mutual relation of two or more things, parts, etc., Statistics. the degree to which two or more attributes or measurements on the same group of elements show a tendency to vary together.

Causation – the action of causing or producing, the relation of cause to effect; causality.

How cognitive bias affects the interpretation of correlation.

The rain dance metaphor.

Before science, humans used correlation to determine cause and affect.

Today we are attempting to understand very complex systems. Correlation is not effective for determining causation. However many people do it. The best way to use correlation is as evidence of a potential connection or cause – it requires investigation.

To correctly identify causation we need to thoroughly understand the system in which we are studying. For example, molecular biology is amazingly complex. We understand a little of it, but there is so much more we need to know before we can develop a cure for cancer.

Quote from howstuffworks: The classic example of correlation not equaling causation can be found with ice cream and — murder. That is, the rates of violent crime and murder have been known to jump when ice cream sales do. But, presumably, buying ice cream doesn’t turn you into a killer (unless they’re out of your favorite kind?). © Carlo Allegri/Reuters/Corbis

Less humorous mistake of interpreting correlation as causation: Vaccinations and Autism.