1, "What is the difference," n.d.). If one action causes another, then they are most certainly correlated therefore causation causes correlation and not the other way around (Deutsch, 2005; para. 1, "What is the difference," n.d.). Moreover, in using correlational data, causal inferences cannot be made even if we obtain a perfect correlation which may be a +1.00 or -1.00 (Myers & Hansen, 2006). If causal inferences are to be drawn from correlational analyses, extreme caution must be made (Jaccard & Becker, 2002).
Actually, there are four possible reasons as to why two variables X and Y might be correlated. Four possibilities are that (1) X causes Y, (2) Y causes X, (3) X and Y affect each other which is known as bidirectional causation, or (4) some additional variable(s) causes both X and Y (Jaccard & Becker, 2002; Myers & Hansen, 2006).
To further illustrate these possibilities, let us explore some examples. For illustration purposes, let us say we find a positive correlation between the number of hours college students spend working for pay and the number of campus organizations college students belong to, it is unlikely that working causes students to join organizations or that membership in organizations causes students to work but the correlation between hours of work and group membership is probably attributable to students' desire to achieve and related personality characteristics (Jaccard & Becker, 2002). There are also examples wherein the causal relationship underlying a correlation is ambiguous such as the correlation between the amount of violent television a child watches and child's aggressiveness. In this case, there are four possible causal directions: (1) watching violent programs on television causes a child to be more aggressive (2) higher levels of aggressiveness cause a child to watch more violent programs on television (3)higher levels of aggressiveness cause a child to watch more violent television, and, at the same time, watching more violent television causes a child to have higher levels of aggressiveness (4) an unmeasured third variable such as low autonomic arousal causes a child to watch more violent television programs and causes a child to have higher levels of aggressiveness (Myers & Hansen, 2006).
It has already been mentioned that when two events correlate, it does not follow that one has caused the other. The Latin term for an error that we commit when we are confused between correlation and causation is called non causa pro causa which means non-cause for the cause (para. 2, "Faulty Causation", n.d.). Our intuition may be blamed for committing this error because it can lead some of us astray when it comes to distinguishing between causality and correlation (para. 2, "What is the difference," n.d.). However, more than our intuition, the words chosen by media can also be blamed for the confusion. "The media often concludes a causal relationship among correlated observances when causality was not even considered by the study itself" (para. 11, "What is the difference," n.d.). As much as possible, we must always use our critical thinking in evaluating different articles or stories that we encounter in our daily lives.