Distinguishing Between Correlation and Causation: A Key to Critical Thinking

ci700332kn00001I often hear people make statements and argue points with poor judgement. Many of these misguided opinions occur because of that person’s failure to accurately distinguish between correlation and causation. One analogy that could be made to highlight this phenomena is the fallacy shown in the graph comparing highway fatality rate and lemons imported the the USA from Mexico. Upon hearing this remark most people would likely question its legitimacy and what kind of proof could possibly be used to back up the claim. It could be argued that the strong downward correlation between the two variables is strong enough evidence to show that when more lemons are imported the fewer highway fatalities there are. However, it should be clear to anyone reading this, without having done any further research on the subject, it is highly unlikely that the two have much of an impact on each other. It is possible that the increased lemon imports over the years have had an effect on highway fatality due to the need for an increase in their transportation. However, there is no way that this factor alone could cause such a strong impact to the highway fatality rate. To avoid propagating logical fallacies, one must be able to realize that the causation for the correlation is merely coincidence, caused by a multitude of other factors, such as safer cars and an increased supply and demand for lemons.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply