The Fallacy of Assuming Correlation Equals Causation

In the rare circumstances when opinionated people couple their chosen stances with actual information, one of the more common mistakes of critical analysis that follows is assuming demonstrable correlation equates to causation.  Of course, it is logical fallacy to draw such conclusions without further supporting evidence, formally known as the cum hoc fallacy.

But often, people need visual aids – a demonstration, if you will – of how dangerous cum hoc is to good decision making. 

Fortunately, Tyler Vigen has put together a wonderful collection of correlative information at his website (and book) that beautifully illustrates the fact that even if strong correlations exist, causation is not necessarily applicable. 

A couple examples are additionally posted below.

Science spending v. suicide

Correlation: 99.97% (r=0.99789126)

Drowning v. Nic Cage films

Correlation: 66.6% (r=0.666004)

Arcade revenues v. CS doctorates

Correlation: 98.51% (r=0.985065)


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