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Causation vs Correlation – What’s the difference

Survey Science How to talk about correlation and causation in your survey data. Jillesa Gebhardt 3 min read. Always remember correlation does not imply causation. Prediction: questions that ask a respondent to guess about something in the future. Example: Will you still be working at your company two years from now?

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Belief about someone else: questions that ask what the respondent believes about someone else. Example: How successful are you at life? Good: People who have purchased Acme products are more successful than non-purchasers in a number of ways. They have higher incomes, more friends, and have greater life satisfaction. You might also like.

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That is on the right lines, of course, since certainly we do not suppose that e would have occurred even if either cc or e itself did not. However, it will not do.

§1. Some useful terminology

We regularly take it that a causal circumstance is linked by way of a causal chain or sequence to its effect. Without attempting a characterization of such sequences, let us suppose that a link k occurred in a causal sequence connecting cc with e. Clearly we do not believe that since cc occurred, e would still have as it did, even if k had been missing.

We need to restrict x a bit more in order to express what we want. What we come to is this. If cc was a causal circumstance for e, then 5 If cc occurred, then even if there also occurred any change x logically consistent with cc and e, it was never the less the case that e occurred -- or, cc began and e ended a sequence of things such that it was true of each one and its immediate successor that if the first occurred, even if there also occurred any change x logically consistent with both, then the second also occurred. To speak differently, if e had not occurred, then even if there had also occurred any change x logically consistent with the absences of e and of cc, and consistent with the absences of links between cc and e, it would also have been the case that cc did not occur.

This fifth causal relation, like several to come, is stated by what we can call independent nomic conditional statements, or simply inde-pendent conditionals. Their truth, in brief, is independent of what else is true.


Expressed one way, as we generally shall, they are of the form if a occurred, then even if any events or conditions logically consistent with a and b had also occurred, in place of those which did, b would still have occurred. Or, as we can as well say, Even if any events or conditions logically consistent with a and b had occurred, rather than those which did, if a occurred then b did.

Or again, independent nomic conditionals come to this: Given the rest of the world as it was, or given that it was different in any way we can conceive it as being, without logically excluding a and b, then if a happened so did b. Independent conditional statements are thus different in kind from those dependent nomic conditional statements or simply dependent conditionals , which state the first four of our causal relations. Dependent nomic conditionals are certain of the statements of the form If a occurred, then b occurred.

Their truth, in brief, is dependent on what else is true. By way of abbreviation of what is stated by the independent conditionals in 5 , cc can be said to have necessitated e , and e can be said to have been necessary to cc. We can also, in abbreviation, speak of an event as necessitated without identifying or indeed knowing its causal circumstance.

Here a necessitated event is of course to be understood as an event which does stand in the given relation to some or other antecedent. Like remarks might have been made elsewhere— with respect to a required event, for example. What we have in 5 might be improved in a number of ways so as to deal with questions and indeed objections, and thereby complicated and indeed greatly complicated.

In particular the contrapositive formulation might be considered further. What we have, further, might be expressed in several different logical notations. We might consider problems e. Wiggins, and proposed solutions e. Thorp, , pp. What we have will suffice as it stands.

It does indeed distinguish yesterday and last night from the other instance of constant conjunction, the solar conditions and last night. There is no peculiarity, incidentally, about this particular very grand causal circumstance and effect. Reflection on smaller examples of causal circumstance and effect, such as those with which we began, is quite as capable of illustrating this fifth causal connection.

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  • References.
  • §2. Causation and causal mechanisms.
  • Causation | Definition of Causation by Merriam-Webster.

The given connection between causal circumstance and effect is in fact the principal instance of what can be called fundamental nomic connection or fundamental necessary connection. Such connection is what is stated by independent nomic conditionals and, of course, holds between any two things when it is true that if or since the first occurred, then even if any change logically consistent with either had also occurred, the second would still have occurred. Fundamental nomic connection, as will be made clearer, is just that—fundamental. It is the stuff of or the basis of all the relations specified so far or still to be specified between cause and effect, causal circumstance and effect, and nomic correlates.

There are two more causal connections to be noted. As we saw earlier, 2 an ordinary causal circumstance is required for its effect. If, say, the ten conditions including the flipping of the switch had not occurred or existed, the wipers would not have started. This is a truth dependent on the situation as it was—there was no ad hoc electrical -circuit and so on.

Causation vs Correlation

There are related connections, however, which have the independence of 5 the connection just noted. One is bound up with the fact that we do indeed suppose that there is some set of types of circumstances, each type related in the same way to startings-to-work of the wipers. We believe that if the wipers did start, even if certain changes had taken place in the situation, there would have occurred an instance of one or another member of this set of types of circumstances.

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Either the switch was flipped and other conditions existed, or an ad hoc electrical circuit was completed and other conditions existed, or. More generally, suppose again that cc was a causal circumstance for e. Suppose also that any one of cc' or cc" or. Then 6 If none of cc or cc' or cc" or If e happened, at least one of cc or cc' or cc" or By way of abbreviation, one or another of a set of possible circumstances was necessary to e , and e necessitated the occurrence of one or another of the set.

Our last relation follows on from this.

In terms of the example it has to do with the fact that if in the situation there existed only the one circumstance for the starting of the wipers, then, even if certain other events or conditions had occurred or existed, the wipers would not have started. More generally, if cc was a causal circumstance for e, and! If none of cc' or cc" or. By way of abbreviation, for what it is worth, we can say that cc was dependency necessary to e , that e was such as to dependently necessitate cc. Our principal conclusion about causation is now at least in distant view.

Causation and other nomicity consists in no less than, and not greatly more than, a web of connections between things or events, at bottom individual properties. What are these connections? They are those asserted by the two kinds of conditional statements. Causation is not, as some suppose, anything less than these connections—which conclusion will be defended in what follows.

Nor is it greatly more. There is thus a clear and plain answer, if one which requires complication, to the question of what causation and other nomicity comes to. The web may be open to other styles of description. Any of these must give it as having a certain structure.