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Logical thinking 1 Establishing cause

Too many conclusions can be attached to a single piece of data

Using sound logic is vital for advanced communication, it can help to understand and answer questions clearly in meetings, conversation or English tests. This lesson is about cause and effect, compared with correlation.

Introduction: 

We will discuss how to build an argument using cause and effect, and how they can be confused.

Warm Up: 

A man points to a chart that shows how temperatures around the world have been rising over the past two centuries. The chart shows that at the same time the number of people wearing traditional Japanese kimonos has been decreasing. Thus, he argues, the number of people wearing kimonos effects the global temperature, and the answer to global warming is to make kimonos popular again.

We can agree that he is completely incorrect, but why is he incorrect?

Language: 

First we will talk about correlation and causation. What do these words mean? Try to think of some examples.

Here are some commonly used patterns:

  • ___A___ and ___B___ are correlated.
  • There is a (weak/ strong) correlation between ___A___ and ___B___

When discussing causation, it's common to use so, because, or therefore. Be careful not to confuse cause and because.

  • Being out in the sun can cause a sunburn because of dangerous UV rays.
  • The cost of fuel dropped, therefore airplane tickets got cheaper. This is a case of overhead costs dropping, which usually causes a drop in price for the end user.
Practice: 

Read and discuss these situations in terms of being a correlation or a causation. What information would you need to make the causation clear?

  • I want my favorite baseball team to win, so I'm wearing red underpants! Last time I wore them, my team won.
  • In Canada, immigration from Ontario to Alberta increased. Soon after, the number of people receiving welfare in Alberta increased. Therefore, the increased immigration caused the increased welfare rolls.

Now, choose a question below and make a strong case for causation:

  1. Does expensive equipment improves your performance in a hobby?
  2. If the economy goes down, does that mean sales of electronics will also decrease?
  3. Does living in a big city effect your stress level?