After yesterday’s comic, I was hoping to find a good example of a news story where they equated correlation and causation. In case you’re curious, it took me under 5 minutes.
To start, let me just mention that correlation implies that two things are moving together….as one goes up, so does the other. Alternatively, as one goes up, the other goes down, or vice versa. Either way, their outcomes appear to be tied.
Causation on the other hand, says that one thing is causing another. What yesterday’s post was referring to is the often made mistake that just because two things are correlated, we can infer that one is causing the other. This is not always true, and believing so may get you drawn as a stick figure.
Anyway, the article above illustrates that point nicely. The author set out to find out if being a control freak mom made people unhappy….and low and behold it appears to. 55% of women who said they delegate to a partner or spouse at least once a week reported themselves as “very satisfied” with their life. For those who did not delegate that often, the number was 43%.
Now, I’ll mostly skip the use of the word “delegate” in this article, though it does bother me. My husband does plenty around the house, but we mostly just consider that “teamwork” not “delegating”. I don’t start the week handing out tasks to him, and he doesn’t consider the work he does around the house a favor to me. It’s just what needs to get done.
More importantly however, is the articles conclusion that delegating will make people happier. While delegating and happiness are perhaps correlated, they are not necessarily causal. It’s possible that the women who don’t delegate do so because their spouse is lazy, hostile, or generally not involved….all things which would also make them less happy over all. It’s also possible that women who don’t delegate are controlling, martyr’s, passive aggressive, etc, and that makes them unhappy too.
I had a great stats professor once who opened every class with this:
“If you get one thing out of this class, let it be this:
When x and y or correlated, you have 3 possibilities:
- X is causing Y
- Y is causing X
- Something else is causing both X and Y “