Correlation Versus Causation
Causation and correlation, two ways to compare events, are often confused with each other when both are not in existance. Causation occurs when one event precedes and causes another event, whereas correlation describes two events that are simply related to each other- and sometimes in sequence with each other- but that do not neccesarily cause each other. Although these two sometimes should be separated, an occurance that is caused by another issue is correlated with that issue: causation demands correlation, but not the other way around.

For example, in autumn there are usually many hurricanes, causing gas prices to rise. The rising gas prices are (probably) caused by the hurricanes, since oil refineries and ocean oil rigs are usually damaged during the storms, causing less supply of oil and, when combined with a static demand, higher prices. These events are also correlated, as they are related through causation.


Example Problem:
Harold sells lemonade on the beach. Every night Harold prepares the next day’s lemonade; the amount he makes is determined by what he thinks the weather will be. Can one rightly assume that if Harold makes a lot of lemonade the weather will be hotter?
Answer at the bottom of the page.

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The seatbelt sign does not cause the bumpy ride; the bumpy ride leads to the need for seat belts! The little boy's complaints reflect his misunderstanding of the concept of causation, since the seatbelt sign is related to (correlated with) the bumpy ride but certainly doesn't cause it.

Correlation vs Causation Video: Don't Jump to Conclusions


Here is someone who clearly understands this concept. If you still don't, you should watch this video!


Want to find out more? Here are some other websites on the causation and correlation fallacy:

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Answer to Example Problem:
No, of course not! These two events, Harold making more lemonade and hot weather correlate with each other. One cannot assume that since two things happen at the same time, they cause each other. Harold made lemonade, and the weather happened to be hotter. Fortunately for him, now he'll sell a lot of lemonade!