Causal Effect: Definition & Overview

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  • 0:00 What Is Causal Effect?
  • 1:03 Examples
  • 2:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica McCallister

Jessica has a Doctorate degree in Social Work

This lesson provides a definition of causal effect and some examples to demonstrate how causal effect is applied. When you are through, take the quiz to assess your knowledge of the concepts.

What Is Causal Effect?

The term causal effect is used quite often in the field of research and statistics. There are two terms involved in this concept: 1) causal and 2) effect. When you look at both of these terms first individually and then together, the overall concept is easy to understand!

Let's look at the first word: causal. The root of this first word is cause. In order to produce something, there must be some type of cause to the situation, or there must be a reason why something is happening (referred to as the outcome). Now, keep this in mind as you look at the second word.

The second word is 'effect.' 'Effect' is usually brought on by a cause. Therefore, causal effect means that something has happened, or is happening, based on something that has occurred or is occurring. A simple way to remember the meaning of causal effect is:

B happened because of A, and the outcome of B is strong or weak depending how much of or how well A worked.


The following examples demonstrate how causal effect is applied in the real world. As we go through these examples, imagine how the effect is happening, and what is causing it.

Example #1

The effects of the pain medication should be felt within 20 minutes.

As you look at this phrase, you'll see that the medication is what causes the reduced pain. Depending on how much of the pain is relieved will generate the effect. The effect might be slight or extreme, depending on how well the medication worked for the pain. There are specific statistical and medical tests that can determine just how effective the pain medication was. However, the idea is that the causal effect can be either strong or weak depending on the outcome (reduced pain). Let's look at another example.

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