Spurious Correlations – Nicholas Cage, Tangled Bedsheets, and Venomous Spiders

According to Wikipedia, a spurious correlation is a mathematical relationship in which two or more events or variables are associated but not causally related, due to either coincidence or the presence of a certain third, unseen factor (referred to as a “common response variable”, “confounding factor”, or “lurking variable”).

Tyler Vigen, a graduate of Harvard Law School and currently a consultant at Boston Consulting Group,  has made sport of spurious correlations on his website, which charts farcical relationships between two variables.

Here are a few of the more far-flung relationships that Tyler has correlated:

 

Chart 1

 

Chart 2

 

Chart 3

 

And perhaps one of the best features of the web site is that you can create your own ridiculous correlations; here is one I created:

Vigen notes that the charts on his site aren’t meant to imply causation nor are they meant to create a distrust for research or even correlative data. Rather, he hope the project fosters interest in statistics and numerical research.

And what a noble cause that is…

43 thoughts on “Spurious Correlations – Nicholas Cage, Tangled Bedsheets, and Venomous Spiders

    1. Makes me recall the time I heard my alarm, jumped out of bed, headed for the alarm clock (across the room), found my feet both tangled in the sheets, and faceplanted as my fingers grazed the clock but miss the alarm. Thank gawd I was young and could afford a fall like that. I wish I had video!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Jim. This is quite interesting and I know you to be a numbers guy. That said: there is nothing, ZERO, nada that proves these relationships are NOT causal! Back to the drawing board my friend. Chase

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Interesting post. So should I be afraid to sleep with sheets now? I think I am more afraid of spiders, venomous or not!

    I like the cheese one! 😉
    And lots of money is spent on pets But they are worth it!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I would have responded earlier, but my bedsheets were trying to strangle me. I remember reading a book a long time ago in college called How to Lie With Statistics.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. maybe they didn’t want to make the causality so potentially obvious.

      although I do have to admit that one of my all-time favorite movies is Family Man – we watch it every New Year’s Eve. But that may be more a function of Tea Leoni than Nicholas Cage… 🙂

      Like

  4. I was always told that I shouldn’t eat cheese just before bedtime. Mr Vigen has just proved why. Have you tried mapping your stats against something? Ice cream consumption, perhaps?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. glad Mr. Vigen has offered you such insight.

      I think the most obvious correlation with my blog stats would be number of people who claim they waste too much time on the Internet and the number of people who read my blog…

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Well, anyone who’s studied the scientific method knows that there’s a difference between correlation and causation. For instance, the rate of stupidity tends to increase with the rate of correlational studies reported by the media. But correlational studies do not cause stupidity. Rather, stupidity causes correlational studies.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. First of all, I had to look up spurious and that was very interesting in itself. A bastard is one of the meanings. I kind of like that because it gives me an actual word to use to describe purveyors of fake correlations and fake news.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I love it. I find the cheese and bed sheets very interesting and perhaps there is a causality there after all? Too much cheese can make you sluggish and bloated, which can result in clumsy bed-exiting, hence getting entangled in sheets. Just a thought.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Interesting share!

    I’ve checked out the website and laugh at correlation between US spending on science, space and technology against suicides by hanging, suffocate and strangling!

    I guess I thought “what if there really was a link!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. it’s a good reminder to test some claimed correlations; you could always find something that correlates with something you are interested. the big question is does the relationship make any sense…

      Like

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