Causation in Statistics: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:00 Causation Explained
  • 1:03 Correlation Does Not…
  • 1:58 Lurking Variables
  • 2:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Vanessa Botts
In this lesson, you will learn about causation. In statistics, causation means that one thing will cause the other, which is why it is also referred to as cause and effect. When you are through, take a short quiz to test your understanding!

Causation Explained

Let's say you have a job and get paid a certain rate per hour. The more hours you work, the more income you will earn, right? This means there is a relationship between the two events and also that a change in one event (hours worked) causes a change in the other (income). This is causation in action!

Causation indicates a relationship between two events where one event is affected by the other. In statistics, when the value of one event, or variable, increases or decreases as a result of other events, it is said there is causation.

Each of the events we just saw can also be considered variables, and as the amount of hours worked increases, so does the income earned. Conversely, if you work less hours, you would make less money. Determining causation is not always as easy as the work and income example we just explored. Let's dig into causation further and see how it can easily be misunderstood by taking a look at some other situations.

Correlation Does Not Mean Causation

Some studies indicate that among students as their amount of hours of sleep per night increases so does their GPA (grade point average). This means that the longer students sleep each night, the higher their grades tend to be. Great! Now, all we need to do is sleep longer, and our grades will improve, right?

Unfortunately, it is not that simple. Although based on the study there is definitely a correlation between the two variables, there is no way to say with certainty that the increase in one variable is the definitive cause for the increase in the other.

There is a phrase that sums up what is often a source of confusion when determining statistical relationships: correlation does not mean causation. In the next section, we will see exactly what that means. So, let's take this situation further to determine if there may be some other variables at play that could explain the relationship between sleep and grades.

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