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Source: Ben Le Fort
Published: February 2019

Correlation v. causation

Correlation and causation are terms often confused when relationships between variables are described.

Correlation is an evaluation of how variables move in relation to one another. A positive correlation indicates variables move in the same direction and a negative correlation means they move in opposite directions. 

Causation means one event is the direct cause of another event.

An example illustrating the difference is ice cream sales and car thefts. There’s a positive correlation between ice cream sales and car thefts, but no causal relationship: eating ice cream doesn’t cause people to steal cars. Instead, a third variable (the weather) explains the correlation. Both ice cream sales and car thefts increase in warmer months.

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