Thursday, March 31, 2011

Correlation does not prove causation!

Seriously, what's up with this? There have been two different studies which has made me want to yell "Correlation does not prove causation!" true to my psychology training. Glad I learned something from that statistics course...

The first one is that chocolate has been linked with depression, which basically says people who eat chocolate regularly are more likely to be depressed. They do, on the other hand, admit that it needs more studying. Because people who are depressed eat more chocolate (correlation) doesn't mean that chocolate leads to depression (causation). As the BBC article points out, there could be a number of explanations for the correlation, such as comfort eating. How many of us turn to chocolate to cheer us up when we're down? While we might feel better if we eat chocolate (correlation) doesn't mean that chocolate contains some sort of chemical that actually is a mood enhancer (causation), because the article also says there is no evidence chocolate actually is a mood enhancer. (I thought it had been proven that theobromine actually was a mood-enhancer?)

So the "chocolate may cause depression" is a false assumption. They are linked, sure, but I'd rather say it's because we feel better from eating chocolate. If it's because of those lush cocoa chemicals or because we've been, if you like, Pavloved* from childhood to associate chocolate with happiness, who knows? Might be a bit of both. (*From Ivan Pavlov, who became famous for his classical conditioning experiments with dogs, making them associate a bell with food. Dog trainers and psychologists have rejoiced ever since.)

The second one is that too much TV for toddlers leads to unhealthiness at the age of ten. The more TV the toddlers watched, the worse they did in school at the age of ten, and the more unhealthy they were (correlation). "But of course, because they're watching TV and eating junk food rather than doing their homework!" (causation) you might say. Yes, that might be a part of the explanation, sure, but I don't think it's the whole explanation.

Think about it. If you're a child who has the TV as a babysitter instead of an actual person who takes their time with you, who is going to tell you to get up and play and move around? Who tells you to do your homework? Who challenges you and thereby aids your mental and intellectual development? Ben 10? Sponge-Bob? Thomas the Tank Engine? The Jonas Brothers? Hannah Montana? Teletubbies?! Seriously.

I understand that parents are busy and don't always have the time to spend quality time with their children – my own folks were pretty busy providing for the family when I was growing up – but even if it's just one day a week, like a Saturday or Sunday, spend some time with your kids. If you don't have time for children, why did you get them in the first place? To just place them in front of the TV is just an easy way out.

Kids need support growing up, and that support might just be as simple as spending ten minutes with their mum and/or dad every night, so that they feel seen and supported. If I ever have children, I want to actually have time for them. Otherwise, I don't see the point. Surely, you get children because you want to spend time with them and have a family, not just because of some weird biological urge to procreate?

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