The Thought Refuse

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Posts Tagged ‘Correlation

The Problem of Correlation As Causation

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The confusion of supplanting correlation for causation is one of the most common logical fallacies we make.  This is the fallacy of correlation.  The basic premise is that you will attribute a connection between two experiences as the root cause of one experience being the cause of the other.

While it’s one of the easiest logical fallacies to spot, we continually fall for the trap of the fallacy of correlation.  It does require a minor exertion in mental analysis to catch ourselves spiraling down it’s pitfalls, but it’s shouldn’t be too much to ask a person to invest that energy into their own line of thinking.  None-the-less, it’s a logical fallacy which pervades everyday thinking, and, regretfully, even scientific research.

As a general schematic, think of the fallacy of correlation to be as follows:

  • Event A occurs synchronously or chronologically to Event B‘s occurrence, therefore
  • Event A is the cause of Event B.

The possibilities of the relationship between Event A and Event B are too numerous to conclude A caused B.  Some of these include:

  1. A is the cause of B;
  2. A is the cause of B, and B is the cause of A (or both events sharing a circular causation);
  3. an unknown Event C is cause for either A or B, or both;
  4. the incidence of A and B share no relationship other then temporal occurrence.

It is rare for Case 1 to be true, yet far too often we prefer it from the other possible Cases.  This is often the outcome when a layer of plausibility exists within our empirical history interconnects two events(Hume’s definition of causation).  Plainly stated, if I have been witness to two events occurring in the past, I am likely to make a connection between these two events when the happen again in the future.  They are believable.

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Written by huxbux

February 4, 2009 at 7:25 pm

Posted in Logic, Philosophy

Tagged with , ,