Anyone who has taken an intro to psych or a statistics class has heard the old adage, “correlation does not imply causation.” Just because two trends seem to fluctuate in tandem, this rule posits, that doesn’t prove that they are meaningfully related to one another. While that sounds nice enough on paper, it’s easy to forget when a provocative headline like People Who Have More Sex Make The Most Money woos us with a scenario we wish to be true. (Just imagine what visiting your financial planner could be like!)
Here’s the cure to being duped again. It’s a site called Spurious Correlations by Tyler Vigen–or more accurately, Tyler Vigen’s software. He created code to spot correlations in public data sets and pump out ugly but hilarious graphs in response.
Who knew that the number of people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool correlates with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in? And who could anticipate that the per capita consumption of cheese correlates with the number of people who died by becoming tangled in their bedsheets?
No one, and that’s precisely the point, because these crazy factoids are only related by chance . . . or are they?