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Silly News Magazines: Confusing Correlation with Causation

I was perusing a website today and I stumbled across a headline that bothered me:

Does Being Left-Handed Make You Angry?

In this Time Magazine blog on health-related news, the author discusses findings from a correlational study of tympanic membrane temperature and dominant handedness.

Without going into the integrity of study, my main beef is the way the title is presented by Time and the aggregating website. It implies a general causation between being left-handed and more prone to anger. The word “make” is the hook. I strongly doubt the researchers used the words the blog post did.

I suggest a better title: Does being Left-Handed Relate to Issues with Anger? Of course, I’m no journalist, and that title may not grab readers.

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4 Responses to “Silly News Magazines: Confusing Correlation with Causation”

  • I’m left-handed, and I resent this article!!! I’m getting angry . . . you won’t like me when I’m angry.

  • Lawrence Patihis:

    Yes, indeed,
    there could be no causative link, journalists do that, don’t they, although sometimes psychologists also use langauge that suggests more than a correlation. Even when we find a small correlation, some people write “significant positive correlation” which sounds much more than it is. also doesn’t the word “predict” have causitive overtones too?

    I wonder if the correlation in this study may actually be significant but have a low effect size (those scatterplots look almost random)

  • I would say that its a lack understanding of basic science and how to present it coupled with the need to have a sensational title.

  • Pete Greyghost:

    If James McGaha is associated with anything, I would never believe it! He does not even believe that his mother was a real person!