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How I Beat my Fear of Death by Bed Sheets and Learned to Love Cheese Again: A Lesson in Causation Vs. Correlation

  • by Kerry Goldstein
  • May 13, 2014

There is an epidemic sweeping the United States that most people are unwilling to confront.  An increase in cheese consumption is leading an increase in the number of people dying after becoming entangled in their bed sheets.  The graph below will give you an idea of just how serious this problem is.  While an all out cheese ban may seem brash, we need to ask ourselves how much is that parm really worth:

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While some people might be worried that their love of cheese will lead to death by bed-sheet-tangling, as a potential LSAT test taker you know better. Or you should at least. The LSAT is a rigorous test of your critical thinking and problem solving skills. The idea of causation versus correlation is tested frequently on the LSAT, and the test makers love to trip up those who confuse the two.

To understand the difference, let’s first take a look at what both mean. Merriam-Webster’s defines correlation as “a relation existing between phenomena or things or between mathematical or statistical variables which tend to vary, be associated, or occur together in a way not expected on the basis of chance alone.” Put more simply, correlation defines how closely two variables or sets of data are related. Causation on the other hand, is defined as “the act or process of causing something to happen, or the relationship between an event or situation and a possible reason or cause”. Put more simply, causation is defined by a cause and effect relationship. So on test day, be sure to ask yourself what is the actual relationship between these two events or data points? Are they just tangentially related, or is there an actual cause and effect relationship between the two?

So while some might put down the cheese in order to avoid a horrific sheet-induced-death, you can munch on. Check out this great blog post that highlights some other spurious relationships; I have included a couple of examples below:

This summer in order to stop a rash of fatal pool accidents, Nicholas Cage must…. stop acting. Unless it’s a sequel to Face Off, then the loss of life could be acceptable:

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And you thought the only downside to PACs was an increase in the influence of money on the US political system. THE INSANITY HAS TO END:

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