Correlation and Causation – Comedy Gold !!!

16 May

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For anyone who’s ever taken a university research methods or statistics course the phrase ‘correlation doesn’t imply causation’ probably sticks in the mind. This vitally important idea is central to interpreting statistics, and yet I suspect that even for those who have studied such things to university the idea isn’t entirely clear. Politicians seem to love to ‘abuse’ correlational data, and thus an understanding of this concept is important for anyone wanting to think rationally.

Most teachers presented with the problem of getting this idea across have on obviously ridiculous correlation that they roll out. My own example is ‘There is a negative correlation between number of children in a household and number of electronic devices in a household, but this doesn’t mean that handing out toasters will reduce the birth rate’.

Someone has now done a great service to rational thinking teachers everywhere and collected a great series of spurious correlations all in one place

 

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2 Responses to “Correlation and Causation – Comedy Gold !!!”

  1. Paul Braterman May 16, 2014 at 12:02 pm #

    Wasn’t there something about the stork population and the birthrate?

    • Teaching Rational Thinking May 22, 2014 at 6:03 pm #

      Strangely enough I’ve tried that one. It’s amazing how many 18 year-olds don’t register the idea of the stork bringing babies ! Something to do with me getting older every year but new undergrads always being 18 😉

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