March 29, 2009

Correlation or Causation?

So I just recently came across this webcomic called: xkcd. It's pretty cool. The comics are pretty good, plus they often include topics concerning science and math. I especially love the one above. It concerns correlation and causation, and what the difference is between the two. Unfortunately, very often people confuse correlation for causation. For instance, the eating of ice cream might have an association (be correlated) with hot weather. Perhaps the hotter it is outside, the more ice cream I eat. So, yes, we would say the eating of ice cream is correlated with hot weather. But it would be a mistake to conclude that ice cream causes hot weather, right?

Confusing correlation with causation is a problem that occurs all the time, especially in the media (for instance, I found one headline stating that "TV Raises Blood Pressure in Obese Kids," when only a strong association between hours of tv and hypertension was found). If you are interested, here's a website that keeps a long list of news articles that confuse correlation with causation, plus some resources related to the issue.

As well, if you are in psychology, the following two links may be of great interest, that is, if you're looking to increase your expertise in the application of statistics to the field:

Evaluation, Measurement, and Statistics - This is Division 5 of the American Psychological Association.

Summer Statistics Workshop - Dr. Alan Reifman has put together a list of resources for various summer statistics trainings meant for researchers in the soical sciences. These trainings are held at a variety of institutions. This looks like a very good resource.


On an unrelated note, I have a new blogging buddy. Another one of my fellow graduate students, Dave, has started a blog about Somalia, called Somalfocus. If you have an interest in what's going on in Somalia, or perhaps in internaltional relations in general, then you should check it out.

Lastly, I'm running a little late with my next "Self" post. It will probably be up in the next day or two.

1 comment:

David said...

love the comic... and thanks for the advertisement!