Occurrences of mistakenly tying correlation to causation are commonplace in society. Correlations are easy to find, and our pattern-conditioned brains like to look for them. Often the first correlation we see is what we decide as the causation factor, which can lead to issues and unresolved problems. In Lionel Valdellon’s article, he mentions several examples, however the one about his Mom’s phone freezing was the most interesting to me.
Valdellon’s Mom found that whenever she tried to text message someone her phone would freeze. Since the phone froze every time she tried to text message someone, she correlated those two things together and came up with the implied causation that the app was bad and uninstalled it. Valdellon inspected her phone and found that she always had numerous RAM-heavy games running at all times and that when the text messaging app was opened, in addition to those apps running in the background, it would cause everything to freeze up. The actual causation of the freezing phone was due to the overuse of RAM from not fully shutting down the games when she was done with them. This mistaken correlation led her to be dissatisfied with her phone and the text messaging app instead of solving the issue of her phone freezing.
Mistakenly attributing correlation to causation is a common bias that is encountered by people daily. It is important to exercise caution when jumping to the first correlation that comes to mind because those can lead to incorrect assumptions. Imagining other potential reasons why something could be giving those results is important in personal life. In analytics projects, it is important to utilize detailed experiments and studies to determine the actual causation of an event since there is likely to be many complex variable interactions that make it even more difficult to tease out the true causation.
Author: Logan Callen
Valdellon, Lionel. 2019. “Correlation vs Causation: Definition, Differences, and Examples.” CleverTap, February 04, 2020. https://clevertap.com/blog/correlation-vs-causation/