Teaching Guide: Correlation vs. Causation

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

Learning Objectives

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Differentiate between the concepts of correlation and causation.
  • Give an example of correlation that is misinterpreted as causal.

Causation and correlation can occur at the same time, but it doesn’t mean that correlation implies causation. Correlations are simply relationships between an action and an outcome, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the action causes the outcome. The number of examples of this misinterpretation are abundant.

In the scene below, Mateo has come down with an ear infection, and each of his co-workers seems to have a cure. In fact, even calling their recommendations “cures” implies that the relationship is causal. Do a a particular thing (like using VapoRub) and the ear infection goes away.

Correlation and Causality

Have students watch the video above and identify the correlations and/or causation(s) that are implied in the recommendations that Mateo’s co-workers provided him. Have students explain their justification with a neighbor for each recommendation they provide.

Recommendations:

  1. Garlic oil in his ear
  2. VapoRub
  3. Breast milk
  4. Root beer
  5. Antibiotics

Ask students if their families have any home remedies or recommendations and then see if they are able to identify correlations versus causations.