MathBits.com Table of Contents

Correlation does not equal Causation!

You were given the data at the right comparing the weight of cars in pounds with their highway gas mileage.  You found a linear regression equation and determined that your model was a good fit.

So, you now state for the whole world to hear that heavier cars get less gas mileage.  Right???

Not necessarily.  Your statement may be correct for this particular set of data, but it may not be a universal truth. 

It may also be true that the weight of the car has nothing to do with the gas mileage.  Perhaps some other factor is affecting the gas mileage.

Just because a correlation exists does not guarantee that the change in one of your variables is causing the change in the other variable.

 

Car Weight in Pounds

Gas Mileage MPG
(highway)

3489 28
3955 25
3345 27
3085 29
4915 18
4159 21
4289 20
3992 26


 

Consider
this
situation:

   
     During the months of March and April, the weekly weight increases of a puppy in New York were collected.  For the same time frame, the retail price increases of snowshoes in Alaska were collected.  The data was examined and was found to have a very strong linear correlation.

     So, this must mean that the weight increase of a puppy in New York is causing snowshoe prices in Alaska to increase.  Of course this is not true!

     The moral of this example is:  "be careful what you infer from your statistical analyses."  Be sure your relationship makes sense.  Also keep in mind that other factors may be involved in a cause-effect relationship.

 

Weekly Data Collection

The weight of a growing puppy in New York

The retail price of snowshoes in Alaska

8 pounds $32.45
8.5 $32.95
9 $33.45
9.6 $34.00
10.1 $34.50
10.7 $35.10
11.5 $35.63

 


Finding Your Way Around TABLE of  CONTENTS