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Causality

image loading... by Bo Bennett, PhD, Social Scientist, Business Consutlant
posted Friday May 24, 2013 12:00 AM

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Bo Bennett, PhD

Social Scientist, Business Consutlant

About Bo Bennett, PhD

You can read my full bio at http://www.BoBennett.com.

One of the greatest blunders in critical thinking is assuming causality where none exists. Just because two events occur together does not mean that one event caused the other. It has been argued from an evolutionary prospective that we are wired to assume causality. For example, if a fellow tribesman got bitten by a snake, then he died, one might connect the snake bite to the death of the tribesman, and avoid snakes. Those who made this causal connection avoid snakes in the future and are more likely to pass on his or her genes that are coded for this kind of causal attribution. The problem is, evolution doesn't care that we are right—just that we live long enough to pass on our genes. This might explain why we continue to make egregious errors when it comes to causality, such as associating bad luck with walking under a ladder (superstition), attributing effects to some inert supplement (placebo effect or regression to the mean), or blaming/giving credit to a single person or event when multiple causal factors were involved.

In our modern environment, we want more than to survive; we want to thrive. This requires at least a basic understanding of causality—knowing when events have a causal relationship, just occur together, or are completely unrelated. Establishing actual causality is way beyond the scope of a Facebook post, but questioning assumed causality is a very good first step!

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