Author Archives: Curt Jewett

Correlation Does Not Equal Causation..

Curt Jewett

February 5, 2014

During my senior year of cross country, my team and I became superstitious in how we executed things before our races. We would eat the same food, Gatorade, and even wear the same warm-ups. We also had to have our premeet gummy bears on the way to the meet. By following our superstitions we were undefeated in the regular season. Then came championship season… Our first step in the championship season was the league championships. My team and I followed our patterns exactly and raced incredibly. I won the race resetting my course record and lead my team to an almost perfect score victory (a perfect score in cross country is 15 points). We celebrated our victory and started to prepare for our next level, districts. Again, we followed everything exactly as we always had. I again won the meet resetting my course record leading my team to beat the second place team by almost 40 points. We rejoiced for a day and started training for states. On our way to states everything was going as planned until we got to the hotel and our third runner forgot his race socks. We gave him a pair of socks the next morning at the course and continued to follow our patterns. With everyone knowing our almost perfect pattern had been broken, they were a little on edge. As I refocused them and told them we were the best team out there and it was ours to lose, they completely forgot about our broken pattern. After finishing the race, I counted the places my teammates were coming in and knew automatically we had won. When the final scores came in we had beaten the next team by almost 50 points. We had achieved my school’s first team state championship and a perfect season. Needless to say there was much rejoicing. My team was a great example of illusory correlation because we realized that correlation does not equal causation. Just because we were winning didn’t mean that it was because we repeated the same premeet rituals for every meet. What it means is that we worked hard and stayed focused on what we wanted, a state championship. Illusory correlation happens because when things start to happen, many people link relationships with what happened to what they did when the relationship really didn’t exist to begin with. That is what my team and I did and linked it to our incredible success even though our habits and success and nothing to do with each other. While my team still thinks karma was on our side for once, and continues to believe that it was our perfect patterns that enabled us to win, I know that it was just great training and illusory correlation.