Ionica Smeets (@ionicasmeets) via a TEDTalk presents a humorous, thoughtful look at correlation, including the limitations as well as value in this method. How do we differentiate between events or conditions that are causally related versus those that are simply coincidental? From the website: We are constantly presented with studies and news stories asserting things like "night lights cause shortsightedness"or "married men live longer." But before we take these conclusions to heart, says Ionica Smeets, we should examine whether the connections we see are causational or are merely coincidental. The presentation includes many examples, from the obvious and silly to the not so obvious and serious.
Type of Material:
Any class studying relationships in the world would benefit from this presentation on correlation. This TedTalk could be effectively used to support in-class discussion.
Two reviewers used Google Chrome and Mozilla Firefox to successfully access the presentation.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Through watching the TedTalk, students will learn to think more analytically and in-depth about events, and they will learn not to jump to erroneous conclusions.
• Students will understand the difference between correlational and causal relationships.
• Students will recognize when causal relationships are drawn from correlational evidence.
Target Student Population:
Students studying psychology, or any science, from high school through college are the target populations.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
No prerequisites are required, though a basic understanding of research would be beneficial.
The presentation includes great examples, from obvious illusory correlations (ice cream causes drownings) to serious errors.
The casual comment regarding “that’s the way women are” (in the context of an illustration about marriage) could easily be taken out of context. The claim suggests that women are different in these respects than men, and they are not.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The examples reach out to the audience. They are easily understood regardless of one's background. In a short video, we are shown the importance of further investigating relationships rather than assuming they are causal when they seem they should be.
The presentation is brief and is not associated with traditional learning objectives. Instructors would need to design a class assignment or class discussion questions.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The video is available via TEDTalks as well as directly through YouTube. While training in experimental research would be beneficial, it is not necessary to understand the information presented.
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