Survey Research, Correlation, Causality, And Sex

Correlation is not causality.  Survey research can establish correlation (or,what’s   sometimes called a dependent relationship), but not causality. However, that does not stop askers and those who rely on answers to questions from saying that correlation is causality.  For example, the title of a Chicago Tribune article based on survey research affirms a causal relationship between marijuana use and sex: “Study Finds Marijuana Users Have Sex More Often.”  That’s causality; pot causes sex: “Regular marijuana users have about 20 percent more sex than abstainers.”  But maybe not causality but, rather correlation/dependency: “the study . . . found . . . a . . . `dependent relationship’ between marijuana use and sex frequency. . . . “The study does not . . . indicate a causal relationship between marijuana use and sex.”  But maybe not correlation but, rather, as the article concludes, causality: “Nevertheless, . . . a causal effect could be a work here.”

Here are my conclusions from this mish-mash:

If you want to find out about marijuana use, don’t ask.

If you want to find out about sex, don’t ask.

Actually, if you want to find out about anything, don’t ask.

See also Survey Research and Sex and The Problem with Survey Research.




About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
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