Causation and Correlation

Hey friends!

Happy MID-week time :) All yesterday I kept thinking it was Wednesday…whoopsies. I guess I kinda-sorta-really want to be with my husband again. ASAP. I feel for all your army wives–that is amazing!

On a sidenote tangent: I am a very independent person (like extremely), so I never thought I’d be one of those ladies that needed her husband and always loved being by his side. Well my friends, that is SO me. Let’s be honest here, it’s probably because he’s so amazing I want to be with him so I feel better about myself.

Selfish and sweet in one sentence. Awwwwww 😉

Plus he’s my very best friend.

*****

Did not mean to make that a Valentine’s post, but this sort of relates to V-day. It’s about chocolate. Scientific studies. And the difference between causation and correlation.

Anyone ever take Statistics?!

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Funny story: I signed up to do the online class (through my university) during the Summer so I could go home and work-between freshman and sophomore years-and after 3 lessons and 1 FAILED quiz (I’ve never gotten that low of a score in my life!), I quit and sent back all the materials.

I still feel guilty to this day that I “gave up” so quickly <–because I am a fighter.

But then again, I went and took it my junior year and ACED the class.

So I guess, the jury’s still out on that one. 😉

Well, in Stats class you should’ve learned something about causation and correlation.

No?

Well, in my graduate statistics class for the exercise sciences, we had to know ALL about it. (SO glad I ended up listening in my undergrad Stats….who knew that it would come back and bite me in the butt?! That grad course was HARD stuff.)

Here is what my grad professor loved to say: “correlation does not imply causation.”

That was sage advice, my friends. Now my well-trained eyes (from months of research for my Master’s thesis) can spot that inference in almost any article in any newspaper.

Causation and Correlation

I have come to this conclusion: there are a lot of reporters, writers, and news anchors who never met my smart professor. And some of these people never took the time to learn the difference between the two (causation and correlation).

Case IN point. NPR story headline that reads ” Does a Chocolate Habit Help Keep You Lean?” The title already suggests there is a causative relationship (which usually leads to more people reading their stuff), and then the whole article leads the person to believe chocolate will make anyone skinny.

Read the article–it is a good one, and very interesting (and besides, I believe that eating chocolate helps me get my ‘indulgence’ and ‘treat’ without overdoing it).

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Correlation means 2 events are correlated or related but not necessarily in a “one must mean the other is true” time frame. From wiki : “In loose usage, correlation can refer to any departure of two or more random variables from independence.”

Causation refers to an event being correlated and there is clear evidence that one event (or product or ‘thing’) caused the other in a time frame relationship.

I like the NPR chocolate article’s scientific basis, but um, it pretty much infers eating chocolate can help make you thinner….. (I heard my little brother yell out to my dad before we all ate dinner together last night “dad, chocolate makes you skinny!” Umm, yah.

The scary thing? He’s a smart kiddo. (And I kinda believe he was half joking.)

The other really scary thing?! Some people don’t look closely at facts.

I am just saying, WATCH out. There is a lot of information swirling about us, and if you’re not careful, you might go take a diet pill that promises magic weight loss, eat 3 bars of chocolate for a ‘promising’ new eating regimen, start a popular ‘cleanse’ because it’s said to be amazing for health, or get an injection that’ll make you not hungry…….

Start reading articles, blogs, and newspapers with a more critical eye, and you may be very surprised at how much misleading and/or misinformation is out there! Don’t believe everything you hear.

Oh and by the way, hard, smart, dedicated work does CAUSE change in your bodies. That is proven :)

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Have a LOVELY day!

Off to teach some BodyPUMP. I am loving on the lunge track (from release 78)…it makes my booty hurt SO good.

P.S. BodyPUMP is something else that’s been proven–I KNOW my dedication and hard work in it has caused me to look leaner and get stronger. :) More on that on Monday!

P.P.S. After this post, I promise I am not that much of a nerd….. heh

What have YOU been misled on because of the mix-up with causation and correlation?? What do YOU think about the NPR chocolate article?!

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Comments

  1. Oh I’ve had those two words and their meanings pounded into my head in undergrad haha. And I hate how the popular media can skew things so it seems like they are causative when in fact they are not at all! Although, it would be pretty sweet if eating a ton of chocolate helped keep you lean 😉 hehe

  2. My Statistics class in college almost killed me. Worst grade of my college career. Great post though!

  3. Media is so tricky to navigate…a lot of people lap that stuff up….its a sweet idea that chocolate can make you skinny, but really, moderation is what will make you skinny, lol.

    p.s. i’m a huge nerd too so its ok! and i totally get your feelings on being away from your husband…so sweet :)

  4. Shucks! I read that article and went to eat some chocolate after to celebrate the good news

  5. Haha I love this. I was a marine biology major and correlation vs causation was a huge part of my 4 years at school. I’m always the annoying nerd who hears things (like this chocolate thing) and says that’s just a correlation, there’s no proof it’s a causation! and people stare…

  6. Love it! There is so much misleading info out there…thanks for the reminder!

  7. I keep hearing about this NPR article, guess that means I should go read it! All I know is that I love chocolate and must keep it in moderation!

  8. As a former journalist and magazine editor, don’t always believe what you read!

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  1. […] Causation & Correlation – Maybe I’m biased because I minored in stats and really do love them. But Annette’s discussion of causation and correlation is SO important, and should really be required reading for anyone who takes health news literally. […]

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