Topic 2: Reliability {by 9/15}

Based on the text readings and lecture recording due this week consider the following two discussion points: (1) Correlation does not equal causation! Share your thoughts on why this assumption is still a common mistake, especially in the mental health field.  (2) Share your thoughts on why reliability is so (wicked) important for psychological assessments (this is a bit of a deep question – give it your best shot).

 

Your original post should be posted by 9/15.  Post your two replies no later than 9/17.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

77 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Tiana Faulkner
    Sep 09, 2022 @ 14:28:31

    I feel like people still have a hard time remembering correlation does not equal causation because we as humans are always searching for patterns even when there is not one to find. If something is happening and we see a similar pattern playing out before the event, we just simply equate the two. There is also the idea of simplifying situations when we should not. Sometimes we say the easy answer is the best answer but that is not always true. I feel like there are times when we do not completely consider every single possible option in situations which is not always a bad thing but in the case of psychology, it is. If there is a person that is feeling or acting a certain way and you are trying to help them find the cause of their problems, there are so many different possibilities for what could be wrong. Just because there is one specific bad thing happening in a person’s life or brain does not mean that is the root of their problem. We sometimes forget to consider every option before making assumptions about correlation and causation.

    In regard to reliability and its importance for psychological assessments, it is about it simply being dependable. Psychological assessments are huge tools used in the field, they themselves are important to have and to administer. There would be no value in using an assessment if it was inconsistent and we could not rely on the results it produced. Reliability gives us the assurance that the assessments we use will produce consistent results even when repeated. If an assessment was not reliable, it has the potential of causing a lot of harm on those who take it depending on their results and can do a lot of damage on the research associated with those assessments and their results.

    Reply

    • mikayladebois
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 12:36:23

      Hi Tiana, I really like your comment about seeing patterns in the world around us. I think a lot of the issues we see are because people won’t take the time to understand the whole situation and we rely on past experience or social conceptions to judge the “pattern” in front of us. It has been said before that context is essential in all situations, otherwise, we can only make uninformed decisions.

      Reply

    • Brenna
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 23:20:49

      Hi Tiana! I really resonated with your response – I feel like we definitely processed the correlation/causation aspect in the same way. I agree that in psychology/as a therapist it’s insanely important to consider all factors when dealing with relationships between variables (and ultimately, when treating clients!). Us humans are so complex and I believe we have only brushed the surface of understanding the mind and how to effectively treat it’s complexities. Cheers!

      Reply

    • Becca Boucher
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 15:40:24

      Hi Tiana! I really love how you mentioned that an issue with people assuming correlation equals causation is that it limits the possibilities of the root of problems. How do you think that a quick assumption that one variable causes another could hinder the treatment of an individual in therapy? I also agree with your statement that if an assessment instrument were inconsistent that we could not rely on the results it provides us and that it could damage an individual’s care. If we are not able to rely on an assessment instrument being reliable each individual taking it could get different results even if some are answering in the same way. This could damage care of an individual through either incorrect diagnosis or a failure to diagnose. This can lead to incorrect or no treatment for those individuals.

      Reply

  2. Maria Nowak
    Sep 10, 2022 @ 16:52:59

    Correlation does not equal causation due to the fact that we are unaware of what direction it is moving in and what other factors are involved. For example, say there is an anxious person who goes out in social settings with a group of people. An average person may believe that being out in the social setting is what is causing the anxiety. While being in the social setting could be a potential factor of the anxiety it does not prove that just being out in the social setting is the true cause. Different factors such as who the person is with, what type of social setting they are in, or even what they are wearing could all be potential aspects causing the anxiety. Therefore, there is no proof that being in a social setting alone is what is causing the anxiety. This is still a common mistake because it is a surface level explanation that seems like it would determine why in this case an individual is feeling anxious. It is much easier to say that the anxiety is occurring because X = Y without evaluating the issue further.

    Reliability is significant for psychological assessments because it will determine how accurate the assessment is and if it is appropriate to use on clients. For example, if you give an assessment to a client that has not been tested and retested to prove reliability, there is no way for the assessor to know if the results on the assessment are accurate. What if when trying to determine if the assessment was reliable, it was not executed in a timely manner or only done on a single person? If the assessor is giving out an assessment that is not reliable it could inhibit proper treatment or diagnosis. This will only deteriorate and delay a client’s progress.

    Reply

    • Tiana Faulkner
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 23:30:03

      I really like your example of the cause of anxiety in social settings. There are so many different factors that play into different disorders and tying to narrow down to one is close to impossible for some situations. Anxiety has so many moving parts into what causes it and what triggers different anxiety responses so saying the specific social setting is what is triggering it would not necessarily make sense.
      When people try to say correlation equals causation it is simply over simplifying a very complex idea and obviously is wrong. It can do a lot of damage in the long run especially in a therapeutic setting when assuming there is one cause for certain disorders when that is never the case.

      Reply

  3. Jack Halliday
    Sep 11, 2022 @ 14:32:14

    Assuming correlation equals causation is a commonly made mistake for many reasons. One of which is the fact that it’s easy. If you observe two things being correlated with each other it is easy to assume that there is a causal relationship in affect. It takes far less effort to put in the extra work to correctly establish a causal relationship than it does to just see two things correlated and assume that one is causing the other. Not only is it easy, but (for those who haven’t had the fact that it doesn’t drilled into their heads for the past 4 years) it seems logical. If you observe two things being correlated, to a lesser educated person it seems logical that there is some sort of causal relationship between them. The more I think about it, it almost seems like it is almost a heuristic. It’s quick and efficient to assume a causal relationship so most people just do. It’s prominence in the mental health field is ironic because we spend the most amount of time learning about why the assumption is incorrect, but people in the field spend a substantial amount of time dealing with causal relationships, especially in counseling. It’s a very easy mistake to make, but it can also lead to the spread of misinformation which as we all know is incredibly problematic.
    Reliability is crucial for psychological assessments because so much hangs in the balance of the tests. For many people who are receiving psychological help their future treatment plans hang in the balance of their test results. Regardless of what test is being administered, and what the results are being used for, it is crucial that the assessment be reliable. An unreliable assessment has the potential to do a significant amount of harm to a client.

    Reply

    • Whitney Andrew
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 20:35:29

      Hi Jack!

      I would agree that people assume correlation equals causation because its easy, but also add it may be because it is second nature as humans are a species of patterns. It may be easier to just accept it as a pattern because thats how our brains are naturally wired to think and see things. I wonder how long it would take to change our mindsets to think outside of this causation assumption if we were to start spreading the word about it.
      I really like your word choice of crucial for reliability as the reliability of an assessment carries so much weight. I cannot think of a better word to describe reliability in the psych world!

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    • Brenna
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 23:28:04

      Hey Jack! I totally agree with you in regards to assessments having a huge (positive or negative) impact on a client’s course of treatment. Without reliable test results, a client’s course of treatment could turn detrimental or just plain unhelpful. The more reliable the test results, the higher the likelihood of effective treatment for the client. There’s no way around it – reliability is crucial!

      Reply

    • Becca Boucher
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 15:45:23

      Hi Jack! I agree with your statement that it is easy for someone to see two events occur one right after the other and assume that one has caused the other. When answering the question I addressed education and media representation of causal relationships, without even thinking of all the things we see each day that we can assume a causal relationship between. How do you think the general public/ people who aren’t studying psychology can be better educated on the difference so that these assumptions can occur less often? I also agree with you that without a reliable assessment instrument that a great deal of harm can be done to a client. Why is reliability so important to the results an assessment instrument provides?

      Reply

  4. Becca Boucher
    Sep 11, 2022 @ 14:58:45

    Unless you take (and pay attention to) a science course, the difference between correlation and causation is not taught to the general public. Therefore, when individuals do not know the difference between these two similar-sounding words, it is easy to mistake one for the other. This assumption that correlation equals causation is also greatly aided by reporting entities that take true scientific studies and misinterpret or misrepresent the findings to mass numbers of individuals. There have been so many scientific studies done that find a correlation between two variables, and if a story can be made about it, reporting entities ignore the true facts and claim causation.
    Reliability is so important in psychological assessments because we need to be sure that our assessments are accurate in diagnosing individuals. Your psychological assessment needs to produce the correct results for each person taking it. You don’t want two individuals with the same symptoms getting different diagnostic results, which would happen if the assessment were unreliable.

    Reply

    • Esther Konadu
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 20:21:28

      Hi Becca,

      You make an interesting point about scientific studies. Why should we limit ourselves to just studies, and extend your conceptualization into other areas? When it comes to news, media, and other forms, sometimes suggesting a cause between some events helps their mission. Even if there is no basis to their claims, just implying a causal relationship increases readership & clicks. Thinking about it in this context, it places larger implications on our consumption of media. There are plenty of articles and videos that try their hardest to sway the consumer. And it is up to us to fight even harder to outwit them.

      Reply

    • Jack Halliday
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 15:56:18

      Hey Becca, I never really thought about the fact that the difference between correlation and causation really isn’t covered in any schooling besides those who pursue science-based courses, that was a great point! It makes me wonder if maybe some of these fundamental truths of our world, such as that, should be incorporated into high school level science courses. Given the plethora of information available to us nowadays it puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the consumer to choose ought to be believed. You made some good points that really got me thinking about the nature of information in our country.

      Reply

    • Taylor Poland
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 16:40:03

      Hi Becca!
      Your insight on correlation not equalling causation was really helpful in my understanding of the concept. As you said, if a correlation is found between two variables and the story is interesting, then reports will go out claiming causation. It is very easy to assume that a pattern means a definitive relationship especially if one lacks education on correlation and is hearing this information from a news source. As students studying psychology, correlation not equalling causation was something we were taught long ago in our undergraduate studies. Individuals lacking knowledge in the sciences do not know any better than to trust what is coming from reliable news sources. Your insight on this topic made me ponder why the education system does not incorporate this information in more courses at the highschool level.

      Reply

  5. Abby Sproles
    Sep 11, 2022 @ 15:44:38

    We often use a reductionist approach when thinking of mental disorders. We may automatically think of specific causations of someone’s symptoms, such as biological, psychological, or social issues. Many use biological explanations for symptoms, such as an imbalance in neurotransmitters. This does not paint the whole picture. Rather, biological, social, and psychological factors interact to influence mental illness. Also, there are many other factors (that cannot be measured) that may moderate or mediate the relationship between variables.

    Reliability is important when identifying and evaluating an appropriate assessment to administer to a client. You need to consider the reliability coefficient to understand how consistent one’s scores may be using that instrument. Also, you need to consider the trait/characteristic you are measuring and the characteristics of the client. Without understanding the reliability of the assessment, we may cause harm by administering a test that is not applicable to the client’s demographic background, or one that may be largely subject to random error. This harm may be an inaccurate diagnosis or an inappropriate treatment plan.

    Reply

  6. Alyson Langhorst
    Sep 12, 2022 @ 13:22:22

    In general, I think that people assume that correlation equals causation because it’s easier to think that there is a direct cause and effect relationship than it is to think about two things simultaneously happening that aren’t related. I also think it’s easy to make this mistake because people like the sound of a good story. If it’s quick, catchy, and gets straight to the point, something that you don’t have to think about, then people assume it to be true. In the mental health field, where there are a lot more questions than there are answers, I think that people want to believe something is conclusive and causal. There’s a satisfactory aspect of knowing the direct relationship of something. Additionally, there’s quite a bit of pseudoscience and there are some, for lack of a better term, “sus” people in the mental health field, and so these factors might also be pushing the notion of correlation = causation.
    Reliability is really important for psychological assessments for both the actual instrument as well as for the participants taking the instruments. On one hand, it’s important for the instrument to be reliable because consistency is part of validity. If you have a test that’s not reliable, then it means that you can’t accurately interpret the results from the instrument since the results would be different every time. The weight example they gave in the textbook is a good example of this. If you step on the scale 5 times and each time it gives you a very different weight, then you wouldn’t be able to draw any conclusions from it. In terms of psychological assessment examples, getting dramatically different results because the instrument is unreliable will hinder a person’s ability to get a proper diagnosis and may affect treatment outcomes/plans. In a broader sense, the whole point of psychological assessment (really any assessment) is to be able to draw accurate and conclusive results. Assessment is the first step, and so every subsequent step is a result from that initial step. Meaning that, if you get an inaccurate result from the assessment, then the course of action taken after it, at the very least will be unhelpful, and in the worst case scenario, may even hurt the person.

    Reply

    • mikayladebois
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 12:25:45

      Hi Alyson, I agree that people like the quick and catchy conclusion! I like your point about needing the first step (assessment) to be accurate because otherwise the resulting treatment or actions will be flawed. I also think that the satisfactory feeling of knowing something is causal is also a comfort to us. It might make treatment sound better if we know exactly what is wrong (even if we don’t).

      Reply

    • Maria Nowak
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 23:49:11

      Hi Alyson!

      It is true that individuals want to believe there is always a direct cause and effect relationship to issues that may arise. It is much easier to almost put blame on something specific than it is to raise questions and find out what other details may be a contribution. I believe anxiety is a great example of when someone believes there is a direct cause to why the anxiety is occurring. It would be so nice to tell someone that if they stop doing one specific thing that their anxiety will go away. In reality, anxiety is the effect of many different issues. We are not able to deem one sole contribution to be the cause.

      Reply

  7. Esther Konadu
    Sep 12, 2022 @ 17:27:09

    I think people are surprised that correlation does not equal causation because it feels like it is against our nature. We are often looking for signs in life that seem to urge us in the direction or outcome that we want. In reality, we are taking some random events that happen to be occurring at the same time and placing meaning on them. Just because these two things are happening does not mean that they directly impact each other.

    Reliability is crucial for psychological assessments because it provides us with researched and evaluated tools. Without it, we would not be able to give out assessments knowing that the results are not consistent. Yes, some assessments should not be administered because of their inability to be reliable (looking at you Rorschach), but some choose to ignore this and proceed anyway. Choosing to give the most reliable assessments to our clients ensures that they can trust in the work that we do. In turn, we can trust ourselves knowing there is no guesswork & hoping for an unknown outcome.

    Reply

    • Alyson Langhorst
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 12:53:13

      Hi Esther!,

      I agree with your point that we often take 2 events and conclude that they must be related. I think you bring up a really good point that this could be in a sense, cherry picking, as we are looking for conclusions that we want to see- so we end up ignoring the other possibilities that don’t fit the narrative that we believe. I also would add that there is a sense of relief to knowing that 2 things are directly related. In general, and in psychology specifically, we want answers, so sometimes we fall prey to the idea that correlation = causation.

      You bring up a really good point about trust when it comes to reliability of assessments. A test being unreliable not only gives inconsistent results (which can impact treatment), but it also impacts the relationship/rapport between client and therapist. Clients are confiding in and looking to qualified therapists to help them with their goals and with treatment. If the therapist uses an assessment that they know is unreliable and then ends up misdiagnosing the client (and subsequently creates an unhelpful treatment plan), this could cause the client to completely terminate the relationship. I’d also argue that it could be considered malpractice if the therapist knows that the assessment is unreliable and continues to use it (and doesn’t use any other assessment tool). In the worst case scenario, this could prevent the client from getting the help they need and even prevent them from wanting to find another therapist.

      Reply

    • Whitney Andrew
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 20:41:40

      Hi Esther!

      I definitely think it is against our nature to see a pattern and not assume there is a causation behind it. Do you think perhaps it could be an evolutionary protection, like these people keep getting sick when they eat this substance so we have to stay away from it even though it may not be the substance but a different influence?

      Yes absolutely drag Rorschach! I agree that it is important to have trust in the tools used for assessment, because without it how can a client trust you to provide helpful care? I wonder if some helpers use tests like the Rorschach just to have the name behind it as it is well known outside of the field as well and used as a stereotypical assessment model in popular media.

      Reply

    • Tiana Faulkner
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 23:51:53

      Hi Esther! I completely agree, people always try to over simplify life by finding patterns in places they do not exist. It is like when we are in school and taught the idea of cause and effect. If something happens within the same frame of time of something else they are now related and one causes the other. If there are more sharks attacks in one area and an ice cream truck opened up at the same time in that area people may start to assume the people eating the ice cream and getting in the water is the reason for the increase in shark attacks when in reality it could be because of the water temperature or the seals in the area, or a plethora of other reasons. A lot of the time we go through life trying to connect things to create some type of order even in places there are no connections.

      Reply

    • Jack Halliday
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 16:08:51

      Hey Esther, I thought your explanation in the first part of your discussion was totally spot on. This tendency to almost have blinders on when we consume data can be so easy to do, which means that it’s also so easy to see stuff that isn’t there. It makes things especially challenging for the consumer when things like p-hacking occur and those who are responsible for presenting us with unbiased data are actually presenting us with data that has been manipulated to portray certain information. Also love the stab at Rorschach, but at least the bright side is that it gives us an example of what not to do. If anything it’s actually quite helpful because it’s the gold standard for a test with incredibly low reliability and in that way it helps further our understanding of what reliability really is.

      Reply

    • Maria Nowak
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 23:58:53

      Hi Esther!
      I completely agree that reliability is crucial for psychological assessments. If there was an assessment given out that was not yet proved to be reliable, this would hinder client progress. It can also lead to misdiagnosis and be severely dangerous for a client. Can you imagine if an unreliable assessment was given out which ultimately led to a client being prescribed the wrong medication? There are some medications that would actually deteriorate a client’s mental health if they do not actually have what they were diagnosed with. It is anyone’s responsibility in the mental health field to ensure they are doing the absolute best for their clients. This includes ensuring an assessment is reliable even if it means putting in more work on their end to do so.

      Reply

  8. mikayladebois
    Sep 12, 2022 @ 18:08:25

    People typically have a difficult time distinguishing between correlation and causation because we really like having a simple answer. It takes critical thought to go beyond the first level of anything and that takes time. It is a lot easier to think that one problem has one cause, that would mean one answer is all that’s necessary. As covered in our Abnormal class, we want the black and white answers to issues with a million shades of gray. It would be easy to say that depression increases as the chemicals in the brain begin to malfunction, but there are too many factors involved for that to be the whole truth. Correlation graphs typically display the relationship between two factors and research can only cover so many variables without stretching too thin. As it is, the general public is not going to read a peer-reviewed journal article in depth, most psychology students won’t even do that, so they are going to need the TLDR version. Psychology is not alone in this, but the threat of the casual consumer is pretty detrimental to a field that is still growing in popularity in the public. Mental health does not have a straightforward answer to anything, context is key in everything, so a one-sentence synopsis of a complex issue is not going to cut it.
    Reliability is how we know that research is measuring what we want to know about. Using an instrument incorrectly or having a flawed instrument can invalidate any findings because there is no way you can ethically draw a conclusion from it. For something as important as psychological assessments, an incorrect diagnosis could mean an incorrect application of services or a lack of services altogether. In residential settings or places that have clients exhibiting self-injurious behavior, they may administer a questionnaire used to assess suicidality. It is of the utmost importance that their assessments are accurate each time.

    Reply

    • Abby Sproles
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 22:04:55

      Hi Mikayla, I totally agree with your point on how the general public’s lack of knowledge on correlation and causation may hinder the field. Your discussion point even made me think about the gap between researchers and practitioners in the field in regards to research consumption. Researchers need to make outcome data easy to understand for clinicians who do not have a background in research. This would help clinicians, and the general public, better understand relationships between disorders and their potential etiologies.

      Reply

    • Ariannah Zagabe
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 11:06:23

      Hi Mikayla,

      I agree people do have difficulty distinguishing between causation and correlation. You used a perfect example talking about depression and how people determine it’s cause. Similar to what you stated, the idea that depression increases due to chemical errors in the brain leaves out the other potential factors that play a role in depression as well (environmental/situational factors). The topic of mental health is very complex and there’s no straightforward solutions and/or answers.

      Reply

  9. Whitney Andrew
    Sep 12, 2022 @ 22:22:11

    I think the biggest reason that people assume correlation would equal causation is because humans are a categorical, pattern oriented species. If a pattern is occurring with no true reasoning behind it, we all just kind of assume that there is a cause because why else would a pattern really occur? A consistent pattern is easily simplified into a causation because repetition is significant to human routine. Though this is not true, the mass of humans just accept it as a truth because it logistically makes the most sense.

    Reliability is so important in psychological assessments because it is potentially dangerous and damaging to make diagnoses on tests that are not consistent with results. If a diagnoses is made off of an unreliable evaluation, a client can be mistreated and not improve due to negligence of the helper. An assessment should not be used if it is even the slightest bit unreliable, a small error can result in big consequences for diagnoses.

    Reply

    • Alyson Langhorst
      Sep 13, 2022 @ 12:31:39

      Hi Whitney,

      I agree that it’s easier for us to draw conclusions and think of direct cause and effect relationships. I agree that part of it is biological but I would also argue that it’s taught. You mention the categorical model, which is something that was brought up in our abnormal class, and I agree that it’s easy to draw conclusions from. I think it’s in part taught to us because most of science uses the categorical model. We grew up with the idea that if two variables are happening at the same time, then it means that they are related. While this idea can work in some instances, it’s not true for every one. We are so used to the idea of correlation = causation, that we generalize it. I also would argue that it’s so common to see this mistake because of the lack of answers we have. It’s easier to think that there’s a direct cause and effect relationship between two variables than it is to think that two variables just happen to coincide at the same time and not necessarily have an answer for it.

      I also agree that reliability is very important for the validity of the test as well as for the wellbeing of the client. In the textbook, it mentions that there are two types of errors; standardized and random. In the case of standardized error, it doesn’t seem like it would necessarily impact the reliability of the test- since the mistake would be consistent with every participant. In the case of random error, I think that depending on what the assessment is testing, there is going to be a slight natural variation in answers, which might not statistically be significant. In this instance, I don’t think this level of random error would significantly impact the results. However, if the random error is significant (the results vary greatly), then I think it would affect the reliability of the test.

      Reply

    • Taylor Poland
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 12:46:00

      Hi Whitney!
      In regards to your comment about correlation not equaling causation, I like how you explained that it is in our human nature to believe patterns. We are so quick to assume the obvious pattern is the answer and forget that the easy answer is rarely the correct one. Why is it that most humans do not think beyond obvious patterns? Is it due to social norms allowing this, laziness, or lack of education? I think all three are factors in why people are quick to assume a pattern means cause and effect. Reliability is crucial in our field of work to accurately diagnose and treat clients. As you mentioned, if an assessment is not reliable, we may put clients at risk. Many people who are misdiagnosed or are not being treated properly are more likely to face emotional or psychological problems due to stigmas surrounding their disorder. In addition, misdiagnosed clients may experience financial harm due to paying for treatments that are not beneficial for them. Your blog post was really insightful and allowed me to further my own ideas on this material. Nice job!

      Reply

    • Ariannah Zagabe
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 11:08:02

      Hi Whitney,

      I do agree that humans are categorical and pattern-oriented species. We naturally feel the desire to find a cause and tend to assume there’s a cause in particular patterns. In my post I mentioned how people are conditioned to look for explanations and reasoning in things. I like how you pointed out that if an assessment is even the slightest bit unreliable, it should not be used. Reliability is very important when it comes to assessments. Lack of reliability could lead to an inaccurate evaluation and misdiagnosis.

      Reply

  10. Megan VanDyke
    Sep 13, 2022 @ 11:12:12

    The mental health field struggles to remember that correlation does not equal causation because it strives to find a categorical explanation for every symptom and disorder. It assumes that the path to the answer is linear when it is dimensional and has many twists and turns. For example, if a client states that they recently lost their job and are exhibiting symptoms of depression, a reductionistic approach would assume that the client is depressed because they lost their job. However, job loss is correlated with depression, and there are several variables that, when working together, can develop depression.
    Reliability is so important for psychological tests because it is vital to produce accurate results for the client. Testing could significantly impact a client’s life, and misdiagnosing someone or using an ineffective treatment plan can be seriously damaging. High-reliability coefficients ensure that the selected instruments were appropriately used and will remain consistent if retesting occurs.

    Reply

    • Esther Konadu
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 21:19:16

      Hi Megan,

      I feel like most people forget that life and all its details are not linear. People tend to look for a “clear-cut” or straightforward answer to our problems, and we rarely get that. Every aspect of our lives is intricately intertwined. I know I am not alone when I wish that some questions and problems could be solved with a simple answer. On the other hand, I think having a reasonable amount of complexity (not including the extremely negative parts of life) is necessary. Without it, we would not grow and change into the version of ourselves we want to be.

      Reply

  11. Rena Yaghmour
    Sep 13, 2022 @ 23:14:42

    I believe that people still assume correlation is equal to causation because we as humans always want something to blame therefore when one scenario occurs whether it is bad or good, we want to associate it with something so that the occurrence makes sense to us. We also want things to be easier for us to understand which is why we associate two things together. I think as humans we find comfort in patterns and creating assumptions in order for us to better understand things. It’s more likely harder for us to grasp the idea that just because two things are correlated doesn’t necessarily mean they are caused by one another which again, is why we revert to associating two things together.

    Reliability assessments are important because they help us gain the answers that we need and help us collect necessary information. If an assessment is being taken consistently and the results are coming back the same that also helps us determine how reliable the assessment is. We want to ensure that clients are taking these assessments and guarantee that they are well created and reliable, so they can obtain the care they need when providers receive accurate results.

    Reply

    • Gitte Lenaerts
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 20:25:42

      Hi Rena, I agree with your statement on humans wanting something to blame when a situation occurs. In my post, I also mentioned how as humans we want to find answers to why something happens. This is in our nature. However, the phrase correlation does not equal causation, explains to us that there are multiple factors that play into why something happens and that is not a sole cause. I agree, that humans find comfort in patterns and creating assumptions. Especially in the mental health field. We are typically trying to find a cause for why someone is struggling so we can understand, when in reality there are numerous causes such as experiences, genetics, etc. With that, we want to have a reliable way of assessing clients. You mentioned how having reliable tests will ensure clients receive the right care. Which is the most vital component of reliability within psychological assessments. Great post!

      Reply

    • Chandal Powell
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 23:40:23

      Hi Rena,
      I agree that as humans we tend to find comfort in patterns to the point where we ignore evidence telling us otherwise. I think we then find correlations or associations that support what we understand because it’s easier. Easier to associate one thing with the other than to think beyond what is in front of us and consider other variables. That is why reliability is so important because we can use assessments that are consistent and accurate so individuals can receive the proper treatment.

      Reply

    • Megan VanDyke
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 08:05:01

      Hi, Rena! Your point about humans making assumptions about correlations being easier to understand stood out to me. When I was a college freshman, I saw an on-campus counselor (not at Assumption) who asked me why I was having anxiety symptoms. Looking back, I could not pinpoint one exact reason, as there were so many things happening at the same time, but at that moment, I told them that I did not know. The therapist may have also been associating correlation with causation because without skipping a beat, I was told that “I don’t know” was not a good answer and that I should leave and come back with a better one. I wonder, if I were to have given one specific reason, would that have been viewed as the cause for my anxiety? Regardless, that experience, on top of what I learned in chapter three, helped me be more aware of examining all the variables in the given context, not just X and Y.

      Reply

    • Ashley Millett
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 15:47:13

      Hi Rena,

      I agree with your statement on humans wanting something to blame when something happens. Sometimes, I think rather than looking into ourselves, we try to look for a scapegoat. I also agree that we look for something easier to understand. Life can be complicated sometimes. Rather than looking all around for a solution, we have blind spots that only see one thing. This could be a societal thing or a personal thing but we sometimes never “look outside the box.” This can also lead to many mistakes being made in the mental health field. We may see a common factor among a patient and pick a disorder based on that factor. However, we know that is not the case due to “correlation does not equal causation.” There can be many factors that can determine a disorder. Once we get out of that mindset, then we can move on and find better ways to help the client.

      Reply

  12. Lucy Rising
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 10:55:33

    Why is it so easy to confuse correlation (that is, a simple relationship between sets of data) with causation (an effect demonstrably caused by something else)? One answer can be that it is a misunderstanding of how to read and interpret data as well as an expectation as to what the data should say that results in this confusion. When presented with the example that the number of shark attacks is positively correlated with the amount of ice cream sold we can very clearly understand that one does not cause the other. Ice cream sales go up in the summer because it is warmer and shark attacks also increase because people are more likely to be in the ocean, where they might encounter a shark, during the warmer months as well. However, when we are given the example of test scores and hours spent playing video games and see that there is a negative correlation we are more likely to say “video games cause poorer exam scores.” The difference in these two examples is that the first example is two sets of random data that are conceptually unconnected variables, so we do not superimpose any expectations of results onto them. With the video games example, however, it conceptually makes sense to say that “the more time you spend playing video games the less time you would be studying, therefore your exam scores will be lower.” This is something that we /expect/, therefore it takes less of a jump in our mind to say that video game playing causes bad test scores. As we know, however, this is a misreading of the data. The only way we would be able to say that video game playing causes poorer test scores is to set up an experiment that measured and accounted for these variables, as opposed to simply examining self report data and drawing conclusions from that. Data can also be intentionally or unintentionally misleading. We expect data to mean something, or said in a different way, we expect to draw conclusions from data that is presented to us. And as a result we often want to impose that onto the data (especially if it is presented visually like a scatterplot).
    Reliability in the realm of mental health assessments is so (wicked) important because it helps us know that we are accurately measuring what we are setting out to measure. If we are using psychological assessments to measure the level of distress (whether that distress is coming in the form of depression, anxiety, etc.) an individual is experiencing and that assessment is not reliably measuring that individual’s distress it can lead to hindrances in the helper’s treatment. A depression assessment should not be giving one score of severe disturbance at the beginning of the session and a score of low disturbance at the end. Either the assessment is greatly flawed and the helper cannot make any accurate presumptions about the results and how to proceed with treatment thereafter, or the helper cured the client’s depressive feelings in a singular hour session, which is obviously not the case. Without this presumption of reliability in our assessments, we cannot confidently use them to gage how a client feeling in the particular moment they took it and how to proceed from that moment.

    Reply

    • Grace Ling
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 20:28:16

      Hi Lucy,
      I like the two examples you used in showing that putting certain variables together can lead to a misunderstanding of correlation being the same as causation. People often take the results at face value and do not take into consideration other factors that could be involved. We do not know the direct relationship between video games and test scores unless more testing takes place. Also, I think there is also misunderstanding when it comes down to why people make correlations. With correlations, we just want to see the direction and strength of the relationship but that does not translate to the why this relationship is positive/negative or weak/strong.

      Reply

    • Abby Sproles
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 22:13:03

      Hi Lucy, I love your example, I remember first hearing that when learning correlation vs causation.

      Your discussion on public misinterpretation of psychological data made me question whether this is a problem of people not understanding outcome data, or researchers not describing the outcome in a way that the public can understand. I would love to know what you think! Do you think this is the public’s responsibility to understand correlation vs causation, or do you think it is the responsibility of the researchers in the field to communicate data in a more digestible way?

      Reply

      • Lucy Rising
        Sep 15, 2022 @ 09:41:23

        Hey Abby, I appreciate the question. It strikes at something I alluded to in my post but now looking back at I realize is vague/unclear. If I can paraphrase/summarize your question, you asked where the responsibility lies. Either it is in the public to know and understand the difference in correlation/causation or it is in the ones presenting the data to do so in a more comprehensive way. The vague point I was trying to convey in my first post was that it is often the fault of the researchers unintentionally presenting the data in a way that can be misconstrued that leads to these misinterpretations of causation and correlation. But to take it a step further, it is often in researchers’ best interest to /intentionally/ present the data in a way that can lead to these misinterpretations. Like we are currently seeing in our article readings for abnormal, it is in the best interest of pharmaceutical companies to misconstrue the data in order to present the idea that a neurotransmitter deficiency is the cause of depression as opposed to the two being correlated. So to return to your question of responsibility. The way I see it, it ought to be the moral responsibility of the researchers to present the data and present it in such a way that can be easily analyzed and understood for the general population. But at the same time we know that companies will not adhere to moral issues if it means loosing money, so it then falls upon the responsibility (in a duty sense as opposed to a moral one) for the consumer to understand what the data being presented depicts and states.

        Reply

    • Melissa Elder
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 13:47:41

      Lucy,
      I used the same example of the shark attacks and ice cream sales, it is always the first thing I think of! I also remember learning about the video game example but remember my professor adding in home life to show us that low test scores can always connect back to something else which could also play into why they play video games so often. Those two examples are really great for explaining why correlation does not equal causation.
      I really enjoyed your description of the importance of reliability and had a giggle where you wrote about the helper treating the clients depressive feelings in one hour session. Of course we know this is impossible which really shows how important it is to make sure assessments used are reliable as we do not want to cause more harm then good to our clients.

      Reply

  13. Melissa Elder
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 11:53:42

    Just because two things correlate does not mean that there is a casual relationship. I always remember being taught the example of ice cream sales and shark attacks. If data was collected for monthly ice cream sales and shark attacks, you would find they are correlated. This does not mean consuming ice cream causes shark attacks. It is simply because more people eat ice cream and get in the ocean when temperatures are hot causing them to be so highly correlated but still, eating ice cream does not cause shark attacks and visa versa. This could still be a common mistake made (by someone who hasn’t had this sentence drilled into their head) because it is easier to just assume that they have a relationship if the are correlated, but it’s not always as simple as one may think it seems, there are always many other variables that are not measured. In the mental health field you must dig to find the true answer, it’s not always just a simple straight line to get to the answer, there is often many turns before coming to an answer.
    Reliability is so important for psychological assessments as it helps determine the accuracy in assessments. It can take a lot for a client to get the courage to seek help, so as a counselor you want to make sure that the assessments you give your clients, provide accurate and reliable results. If an assessment was unreliable, this could end up causing harm to the client by misdiagnosing them and/or providing them with the wrong treatment plan.

    Reply

    • Megan VanDyke
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 08:29:44

      Hi, Melissa! I love your example about eating more ice cream causes shark attacks. Although this correlation sounds silly and inaccurate, some people would still believe this to be true. As mental health counselors, we cannot focus solely on one situation that is the cause of the client’s symptoms, or they will not be receiving the best possible treatment. Disorders are complex and dimensional, so it is essential to view the client’s history from all angles to all possible variables. Then, we will be able to select an instrument with the best reliability for that particular case.

      Reply

  14. Gitte Lenaerts
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 13:00:45

    The statement correlation does not equal causation is an important phrase within academia and specifically, in statistics, that is not always reinforced to the general public. People without knowledge of this phrase may see correlating factors with specific causes. Many people can view the phrase, as cause and effect. That something happens because of a specific reason. I remember in my psych statistic class, our professor gave us the example that ice cream sales cause sunburns. We know that eating ice cream is not going to cause a sunburn. Rather this statement implies that on hot days people are more likely to eat ice cream and get sunburns. I believe that it is in our human nature to find a reason why situations are happening. But in reality, there are many factors that play a role in a situation. This assumption is still a common mistake within the mental health field as we focus on individuals’ feelings, thoughts, and emotions. We as helpers jump to conclusions in order to try to help our clients. We may assume that a client is depressed because they shared they are doing poorly in school. Yes, a client may be feeling depressed because they are not going great in school. But there are most likely other reasons the client is depressed and a symptom of their depression is their poor grades.

    In psychological assessments, we want to use instruments that are reliable so we can effectively help our clients. Reliability is a vital aspect of assessments, as it provides us confidence when using instruments on clients. Without reliable tests, we are not able to help our clients to the fullest, and this can impair treatment. Additionally, having an unreliable test can affect the client’s life as a whole if misdiagnosed. We have to have an assessment that has been studied and evaluated, as well as using reliability coefficients to ensure the test is indeed reliable. We want to have an assessment that is consistent. Having these structures in place leaves little room for error. However, there will most likely always be some sort of variance within an assessment as nothing in life is perfect.

    Reply

    • Emily Forde
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 11:08:14

      Hi Gitte, I really like the example you gave about ice cream and sunburns, that is a great way to view and an easy way to understand the relationship between correlation and causation. In your post, you made that point that helpers like to jump to conclusions to try to help our clients. Although I agree with this, I can also see the potential harm in this. Why do you think there is a need to rush to diagnosing or helping our clients? Also, do you feel it would be more beneficial if there was a shift in the mental health field for therapists to slow down in the area of diagnosis and treatment plans? If so, how would this shift occur?

      Reply

    • Melissa Elder
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 13:59:11

      Gitte,
      I used a sort of similar example of shark attacks vs ice cream sales, I really like your example as well. I sort of agree that as helper we may want to jump to conclusion regarding why they are feeling why they are but I also think as a human we know that it can’t always be that simple, there is always many layers to any situation. Would you agree? I like to think of dominos, as in when one opens up about their problems they often have to continue to dig deeper and deeper until they’ve come to the real route of the problem, meaning all the dominos are being knocked down until there’s none left and you are left with your answer. The satisfaction of them all knocking down right after another and feeling off releasing all these bottled up thoughts/feelings and coming to the route of the problem.

      Reply

    • Stephanie Lugo
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 11:12:09

      Hi Gitte,

      I think you did an awesome job explaining why correlation does not equal causation. I agree with you on the fact that humans have a need to always apply a cause to certain things that are happening. It’s very easy for us to assume one thing causes another without really looking into the whole relationship between two things. You gave a great example of this with ice cream sales and sunburns. While we know that ice cream does not directly cause sunburns; some may still assume there is a correlation. When in reality being outside in the hot weather would have been a better cause for both of these things to occur. The ice cream sales spiked because it was hot and because people spent more time outside in the hot weather they got sunburned. It’s clear to see that ice cream sales and sunburns have no direct correlation. It was the underlying factors of the situations that lead these two things to seem like they may be linked; when in reality they are definitely not.

      I also agree fully with your statement on why reliability is so important. It’s clear that if we use any unreliable tests and assessments; especially in the mental health field it can end up harming the client drastically. Using unreliable assessments can lead to a misdiagnosis and this can drastically hinder a client’s progress. Assessments need to be excessively studied and completely proven to be effective to be considered reliable. If they are not; there is no point in administering them because it would be absolutely pointless and harmful.

      Great post!

      Reply

  15. Ashley Millett
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 20:06:59

    Correlation does not equal causation. This has been drilled into my head since I was a senior in high school. If there is a possible correlation, that does not mean there is an automatic causation. Though we try to look for a cause when we see a certain pattern, that is not the case. There can be many more different factors that can play into a possible causation. Just because something may seem obvious, does not mean that is always the answer. In the mental health field, we sometimes think the opposite. Sometimes when we see a strong pattern, we may automatically assume a certain disorder. Professionals try to find a cause for the disorder by looking at the client’s pattern (family history, medical history, environment, etc.) They assume a factor has a role in the creation of a mental disorder. However, there can be many different factors that can cause a mental disorder. Some may seem obvious and some may seem that they are not. There is a wide variety of disorders with a wide variety of factors.

    Reliability is so (wicked) important for psychological assessment because you want to make sure you are as accurate as possible when testing clients. You would not want to give a faulty assessment to your client. The client is trusting you to have reliable treatment ready for them. They are want you to help them be better. If the assessment s at fault, then the client will not get reliable treatment.

    Reply

    • Wendy Fernandes
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 22:13:28

      Hi Ashley, what you wrote about patterns clicked with me. I think part of the reason people equate correlation with causation is that it is more powerful to say one thing caused another rather than saying there is a relationship between two things. After all, you can work on solutions if you know the cause of something, but if they are only associated what does that really mean for how a problem can be solved. Also, it is easier to focus and find solutions for one cause than multiple varied issues.

      Reply

    • Stephanie Lugo
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 12:17:02

      Hi Ashley,

      I also have heard the phrase correlation does not equal causation hundreds of times, especially in high school statistics. I think you made a great point about how mental health counselors need to find patterns, but also I believe we need to be aware that a pattern does not always mean it will lead to one exact outcome. You mention family medical history as one thing many counselors and doctors have to look into when thinking about medical conditions. This is very true, but also not always the cause of one condition.

      Let’s use depression as an example of a mental health condition that does have the possibility of being passed on through genetics. Say my mom has depression; this does not necessarily mean that I will 100% have depression in the future. It has been shown that conditions like depression have genetic components that can be passed down through the family. With that being said studies on genetic components when it comes to mental health conditions are extremely limited and not very far along in their research. There is no 100% proven correlation between family genetics causing conditions, especially mental health conditions such as anxiety or depression.

      It’s true what you say about reliability. As mental health counselors, the clients we treat believe that we and the assessments we use are backed by science. If we use unreliable assessments we are not really helping our clients, we are only hindering their treatment.

      Great Post!

      Reply

  16. Grace Ling
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 20:14:54

    When people see a correlation, there is this automatic assumption to see the relationship as a causal relationship. Correlations can help us look into the causes rather than the correlation being the cause itself. But within correlations, there is no consideration of outside factors that might impact the positive or negative relationship between the two variables. Sometimes I think this mistake is reinforced because of some correlations being made to trick people into thinking that there is a cause-effect relationship between them. Mistakes like these are made within the mental health field because we want an easy explanation to diagnose certain behaviors or psychopathology.

    Reliability is important for psychological assessments because it tells us whether or not a test is consistent. Have we set out to measure what we intended to measure? If we are not measuring what we want to measure, then there must be some form of error on the assessment’s side. This error can then affect clients’ results which can lead to incorrect diagnosis.

    Reply

    • Gitte Lenaerts
      Sep 14, 2022 @ 20:37:58

      Hi Grace, I liked your statement that correlations can help us look into the causes rather than the correlation being the cause itself. Correlations can definitely help look into a cause but, it is not the source itself. I also mentioned how this phrase enforces cause and effect. You further explained that correlations do not consider outside factors, which these factors can play a major role in the situation. In the mental health field, there are so many contributing factors as to why someone is behaving and feeling certain ways. This is why we want to use reliable assessments, to effectively measure a client’s symptoms. You explained that errors can affect clients’ results which leads to misdiagnosis and ineffective treatment. This only leads to further distress for a client as they are not receiving proper care. Well done!

      Reply

    • Lucy Rising
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 10:01:37

      Hey Grace, I completely agree with your statement that some correlations are made to trick people into thinking there is a cause/effect relationship between two or more variables. You say that this happens as a mistake because we as consumers of data want an easy explanation for the difficult concepts we are grappling with. I would take it a step further and say that it is not a mistake on our part in interpreting the data but a purposeful intent on the part of those presenting the data (and this moves beyond just the mental health field and is probably more prominent in other fields than the one we are focusing on). It is advantageous for certain companies present data in certain ways so as to further benefit themselves. Think about oil companies coming out with research that states fossil fuels don’t lead to a thinning of the ozone. Is this always the case? No. Like you said, oftentimes we want explanations to difficult things or to see patterns in things because it is easier than acknowledging our lack of knowledge in something we desperately want to know about.

      Reply

  17. Chandal Powell
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 23:12:17

    People often make the mistake that correlation equals causation because as humans we all like to find explanations for things that seem to be related. When we see two or more variables appearing to be closely related, we assume that one is dependent on the other. In the mental health field, behaviors tend to be examined as cause and effect. Mental health is also a helping field and as helpers we tend to look for an explanation for symptoms presented in hopes of helping our clients. We unfortunately presume it’s a direct path to a diagnosis (assuming cause and effect) and at times might not consider all the potential variables.

    In regards to reliability and its importance for psychological assessments, it is about ensuring consistency and accuracy. Psychological assessments are often used to make decisions that will have a lasting impact on an individuals life. Individuals conditions may not be accurately diagnosed if utilizing unreliable data, as a result they will not be provided the appropriate treatment.

    Reply

  18. Brenna
    Sep 14, 2022 @ 23:13:28

    1.) I can see how this continues to be a common assumption/mistake within the mental health field. I think humans are naturally wired to look for evidence to support our beliefs and/or findings. With that said I think it is easy to jump to conclusions (specifically within the mental health field – “confirmation bias” being a potential factor) that just because two variables may be related or influencing each other in some way, that ultimately this indicates causation, when, in reality there are more complex factors to consider in order to have the most accurate data.

    2.) Reliability is *so wicked* important within the mental health field/in regards to psychological assessments because overall it provides stability and the evidence of a relationship which is huge when treating clients. Understanding the human brain consists of trial and error and professionals rely (no pun intended) on reliability to influence the direction, intensity and overall structure of treatment as it pertains to each client. Reliability assists the therapist in providing the most effective treatment possible and further helps proper diagnoses, treatment, etc. Without reliability, there would not be any solid direction to follow.

    Reply

    • Emily Forde
      Sep 15, 2022 @ 11:01:38

      Hi Brenna, I also talked about the human tendency to connect and assume things based off what we know and look for evidence. I found it very interested that you mentioned confirmatory bias – I think that is so relevant in the mental health field especially and in the diagnosis process. Do you think this confirmatory bias is worsened by the therapist’s need to come to a diagnosis after the intake appointment for insurance purposes? If this was not a thing, would the idea of correlation not equaling causation be as prevalent in the mental health field?

      Reply

  19. Ariannah Zagabe
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 00:18:23

    I think the reason why it is a common misconception that correlation equals causation is because we are conditioned to look for explanations/reasoning in things and scenarios even if they need to be unconsciously fabricated. Another reason for this is people tend to confuse causation with correlation. I think this assumption is especially common in the mental health field because mental health professionals aim to find solutions for their clients. In the process of doing this they tend to seek explanation and reasoning and use the evidence to determine a diagnosis.

    The reason that reliability is important for psychological assessments is because it helps make certain of the value of results from the assessments. It is a way to determine consistency. Paying attention to reliability within an assessment leads to having a more accurate evaluation/diagnosis and to avoid a misdiagnosis.

    Reply

    • Rena Yaghmour
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 19:00:51

      Hi Ariannah,
      I have to say that I completely agree with you. I think it is first nature to us to want answers especially when something doesn’t go as planned. However, even if the answer we get isn’t really the real reason behind the cause we will accept it because it makes sense to us in that moment. And with the less information we have the more we go finding answers. I also think people tend to struggle to understand that correlation does not equal causation because technically why wouldn’t something correlated with one another be the cause of it. I like to consider it coincidence because when it seems like one factor is influencing the other, it doesn’t necessarily mean it is.

      Reply

    • Magdalen Paul
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 21:51:36

      Hi Ariannah! I really like your point here that the correlation/causation issue may arise often in the mental health field as a result of professionals wanting to find “something” to point their clients to, as a way of providing solutions/answers. This is interesting because, while it seems like the “nice” thing to do to perhaps put a client’s mind at ease, or to feel like a competent clinician because you have “answers” to give a client, it is ironically perhaps hurting the client in some way and causing dissonance for the clinician. By jumping to causation by telling a client that their anxiety is caused solely by their strained relationship with their mom, it does in fact give the client and clinician a clear path to follow to work through ways to improve that relationship and hopefully thus minimize anxiety. But, this seems like the easy way out. What about the various other factors at play in the client’s life that, if you assume causation, would simply go unaccounted for? Additionally, a clinician may experience dissonance when informing a client of “causation,” for example, by telling the client that their depression is caused by low levels of serotonin. If the clinician tells clients this to put their minds at ease, they are ironically putting their own minds “out” of ease in that they know that this is not at all the whole picture.

      Reply

  20. Wendy Fernandes
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 10:16:16

    That correlation does not equal causation is one of the facts that was drilled into my brain during my undergraduate psychology courses. However, as the original statement points out this is a frequent error that people make, and I think that part of the reason for this is because often two issues are so closely related that it seems that one must be the cause of the other. I think this is especially true when people want the two issues to be related because it is simpler on their thought process and allows them to make quick judgements without too much consideration. Also, if it is something that they must be involved with or do personally people often prefer to do or think the easier thing. For example, if a football player wins games on days he wears black socks he may come to the conclusion that the colour of his socks produced the win, when a stronger predictor would be the amount of practice he was carrying out. It is particularly important to keep the point of correlation not equaling causation in mind when interacting with people so that we do not put people into unfair boxes. Personally, I have often found myself evaluating a person based on brief communications only to later discover that my initial assumptions were completely incorrect. It is a constant struggle to keep thoughts in check.

    Reliability is vital for psychological assessments because it allows us to have a certain amount of confidence that the assessment we are using is dependable. If an assessment is unreliable, there would be little confidence and I may wonder why I bother with this instrument. Also, I may be compelled to do other assessments to make up for the unreliability of the original evaluation. If I have immense confidence in the assessment then I can trust that the results will be useful in analysing and helping the client. A similar scenario is with colleagues who are unreliable and those who are reliable. If I am working on a project with a colleague who is unreliable, then in my head I may be making alternative plans in case the colleague does not complete satisfactory work in an appropriate time. With my reliable colleagues I will trust that their competence will provide good quality results.

    Reply

    • Vic White
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 11:03:46

      Hi Wendy!
      I totally agree with your statement about it being simpler on our thought processes if two things close together cause one another, it would make it much easier to explain things and understand things by taking them at face value. I really liked your example of footballers and their socks and the fact you then added another variable that should be considered. I use to be a person who thought first impressions were the most important, however now I tend to not judge/base people off of their first impression because so many factors can influence any situation, so it should definitely be a judgement based on multiple interactions to take into account all the factors influencing any given situation.

      Reply

  21. Emily Forde
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 10:57:37

    In our society, there is a tendency to assume things based on what we know. I think we do this because it may be easier to understand and truly grasp things as a part of a connected system rather than an independent idea. However, despite things being connected in some type of way, it does not mean that once causes another or vice versa. Correlation does not equal causation because although they might happen together, they do not cause each other to occur. In the mental health field, this assumption is a common mistake because it can be easy to assume that one factor in a client’s life has led directly to their mental health disorder. This assumption makes for an easy diagnosis for mental health disorders. However, mental health disorders do not just come from one factor, but rather they come from several so diagnosing based off one factor would drastically oversimplify or misdiagnose the client’s mental health disorder.
    Reliability is so important for psychological assessments because the assessment needs to be effective in order to give the client their true results. If the test is not administered reliably and the client’s characteristics are not considered, an incorrect diagnosis may be given which can lead to a treatment plan that may not be the most effective for the client.

    Reply

    • Vic White
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 11:09:19

      Hi Emily,

      I totally agree that things are easier to understand if they are connected as opposed to all being independent ideas. I also agree that in the mental health field it is easy to assume just one single event lead to a mental health disorder, as opposed to the multiple different events that have happened in an individuals life and have all contributed to it. I think it’s important to consider how damaging it could be if we did base our diagnosis on just one or a handful of events contributing, rather than the whole picture because we could mis-diagnose and cause more harm by incorrect labelling.

      Reply

    • Ashley Millett
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 15:33:08

      Hi Emily,

      I completely agree that we have a tendency to assume things based on what we know. I feel that it is easier just to assume certain things when you automatically see a pattern. I think as a society, we do not look at other factors that can have an effect on the situation. I also agree with you on that mental health field based their assumptions on one factor of the client’s life. As we all know, there are many other factors that can have an effect on a client’s life. Rather than just assuming one common factor, we as health professionals should look deeper into the overall factors from the client. As you said, if we continue to assume one factor, there is a possible chance for a misdiagnosis. We would continue to do more harm than good if we misdiagnose a client.

      Reply

  22. Taylor Poland
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 15:59:25

    As a student of psychology, I feel like I have heard the statement “correlation does not equal causation” hundreds of times. For us, this statement holds to be true, but many people outside of this discipline do not understand its meaning. Many people assume correlations are the same as cause and effect relationships which is where the huge mistake lies. Just because there is a pattern does not mean that x causes y. External factors play a large role in all relationships yet they often go unnoticed because it is easier to assume the relationship is causal. It is crucial that we look beyond the obvious patterns and examine other factors that could be at play before making any assumptions. In the mental health field, things are rarely black and white so it is important to think critically about all factors at play.

    Reliability is the degree of which an assessment or instrument is dependable and accurate. Reliability is very important in psychological measure because we want to make sure an assessment is consistent. For example, if a group of individuals were given the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI) two hours apart, the results of both tests should be consistent with one another. If the results for the first test are mildly depressed then the second test says significantly depressed, then the tests clearly are not reliable. If a test is not reliable, then one is unable to accurately interpret the data which can cause the patient harm. If the results are not accurate, the client may be misdiagnosed or mistreated for their presented problems.

    Reply

    • rena yaghmour
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 18:41:15

      Hi Taylor,
      I agree that to us psych students this is something we know and understand completely and dont blink an eye at. However, to others it may sometimes be a difficult concept to grasp. In my post I mentioned how us humans tend to find something to shift blame on as it makes things easier for us to understand. I believe that we often think we have to rely on conclusions for cause and effect in order us to be able to accept certain things that happen. Also, if it makes sense in that moment then why not run with it. Especially if it’s just easier to associate two things with one another than finding the real root of things.

      Reply

  23. Alysha Benoit
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 16:21:53

    1. Correlation does not equal causation for a plethora of reasons. This is a common mistake in the mental health field because there are almost an endless amount of factors that can play into a person’s mental well being. This is also a common mistake in the field because it is easier for someone to find a causation in one factor than to consider multiple factors (social, ethnic, gender, economic) as being an influence. For example if a counselor is assessing a client in terms of their depression and the counselor notices that the client’s rate of depression has been increasing while their grades are declining, one would think that they are depressed because of their suffering grade averages. On the other hand it could also be considered that one’s grades are declining because of the client’s depression. This is the issue that just because two things share some relationship or influence over the other, does not mean they are direct causations. There are a variety of things that counselors should consider when measuring rates of depression symptoms in clients. For example, maybe the client was recently broken up with, lost a loved one or their job, etc. Although the two could be correlated in that they both have some relationship or some effect on the other, it would be inaccurate to say that the decline in grade averages was the cause for the clients depression because it does not take into account other factors that play a role.
    2. Reliability is so wickedly important because in assessing clients, counselors and other mental health professionals such as those in research or test administration need to make sure that the assessments they are using have consistency, both internally and externally. Internal consistency is important in establishing reliability because it helps ensure that the assessment being used works the same way, with similar samples, over multiple uses. This is very important because as a clinician, one would not consider an assessment to be reliable if it was taken 10 times by the same person and they scored differently each time. Another reason why reliability is important in and outside psychological professions is that in assessing anyone or any “thing” there will always be room for error. This error (standard error of difference, standard error of measurement, etc) must be taken into account when scoring assessments because it allows counselors or other forms of test assessors to address where their test may not be as strong or reliable. In doing so, this allows for revisions and changes to be made in a particular test.

    Reply

  24. Vic White
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 16:44:25

    Correlation does not equal causation is a statement I think we all can agree has been repeated to us many times. When I first started my undergraduate degree, it was the main point our research studies teacher would highlight to us. I think it needed to be highlighted and repeated so much because I know from a personal viewpoint, I often look for patterns and links between events. It is difficult to think that two events are not related even if they happen one after another or are very similar in nature. It’s important to remember that they are two separate events, that have been through their own individual path in order to happen, even if they seem to be linked together or caused by one another. An example being shark attacks and ice-cream sales. Both events increase in numbers but not because shark attacks cause people to buy ice creams but because when the weather gets hotter more people buy ice-cream and in parallel when it gets hotter more people go to the beach and swim in the ocean, encountering sharks. They have a strong correlation to one another (hot weather being a common variable in both instances) but they do not cause the other to happen. In the mental health field, it is important to not make assumptions because they are often incorrect and cause more harm than good. There are lots of factors that can influence a situation so it’s important to explore these instead of just seeing the first indication of a pattern/link between a client’s behaviours and a diagnosis and jumping the gun to diagnose them.

    Reliability is so important for psychological assessment because as I touched on for my answer to question one, giving a client an incorrect diagnosis could cause more harm than good. If the instruments, you are using are not reliable and consistently reliable than it will cause a problem when testing clients and when creating their treatment plan. Within the mental health field, we need to ensure that the tests we are using are effectively testing and measuring what we set out to, and that it will give accurate results for us to give the best care to our clients.

    Reply

    • Chandal Powell
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 14:07:00

      Hi Vic,
      I like how you personalized how you at times look for patterns and links between events because, we all do at some point. This helps us understand why it’s almost automatic for others to do the same, it’s in our nature. The typical person isn’t always aware that similarities or a correlation does not in and of itself mean causation. Speaking to the example you used of shark attacks and ice cream sales, there are many other variables even outside of the hot weather that could impact both shark attacks and ice cream sales both increasing at the same time. Such as, at what time during the day does most shark attacks occur and ice cream sales are the highest. That is why as you have stated, reliability is so important; it helps those in the mental health field to produce accurate results so as to provide the best possible care for clients.

      Reply

    • Alysha Benoit
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 21:48:16

      Hi Vic, I like that you elaborated the importance of correlation not being the equivalent to causation to be taught to us in school over an over. Even in our every day lives we tend to automatically think that someone is a direct cause over another. I like the point you made about something still not having a direct causal relationship even if an event immediately follows another. I think that idea is very important in the mental health field, especially.

      Reply

  25. Magdalen Paul
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 17:23:09

    The point that correlation doesn’t equal causation is so commonly misunderstood, but critical. When trying to examine relationships between different variables, it makes sense why many people would see a correlation (especially when it is a strong correlation) and want to jump to causation—it is easier, and in all honesty, can be fun to think about. “The more I eat ice cream, the happier I feel. It must be the ice cream making me happy, then. Time to eat even more!” While this is a very small example, it can be applied to various situations, and we have all likely fallen into this thinking pattern about something we have observed in our lives. But this cause and effect relationship is in fact difficult to pinpoint and “prove”. In a mental health context, it is especially important not to imply causation from correlation, as doing so can have misleading and potentially harmful effects. For example, if we are treating a client for depression and identify a positive correlation with the amount of hours the client spends on their phone and their depressive symptoms, it would be harmful to “assume” causation—that “increased phone use leads to increased levels of depression.” Without considering extraneous variables (such as diet, strained relationships/social isolation, etc), making such an assumption of causation would lead to not properly addressing the other many factors in the client’s life likely contributing to their depressive symptoms.

    I believe that reliability is important for psychological assessments because it establishes a sense of consistency and credibility that thus leads to confidence in assessment results. The results would have zero value, and would essentially be discardable, if every time an individual took the same assessment, the results fluctuated. If every time a a client took a depression inventory, they received an entirely different score, it would be very difficult to reach a confident conclusion on how to go about treating the client. Having a reliable assessment and therefore more reliable results allows clinicians/helpers to more confidently and accurately determine a course of action/treatment plan for the client’s needs.

    Reply

  26. Stephanie Lugo
    Sep 15, 2022 @ 18:01:58

    I believe that a lot of people tend to assume correlation equals causation because they may not know the actual definition of both terms. That’s why I think it’s super important to know the exact definition of each of the terms. In simple terms causation means that action A causes action B. Correlation simply means that there is a relationship where action A is related to action B. With that being said one event does not necessarily cause the other event to occur. Another reason I believe many people may make this assumption is that it’s very easy for people to judge a relationship quickly without really diving deep into the different aspects of that relationship.

    The fact that correlation does not equal causation is a very important fact to know in relation to the mental health field. An example of correlation and causation in the psychology field is with soldiers who come home from the war with PTSD. One may be quick to assume that the traumas of the war are directly correlated with the soldiers coming home with PTSD. Assuming this would mean that every soldier who went to war and experienced trauma would have to return home with PTSD. This of course is not accurate; not every soldier suffers from PTSD. While many soldiers do suffer trauma at war and return home with PTSD; not all of them do. So in this situation, the correlation between PTSD and going to war does not directly mean there is always going to be causation.

    Reliability is so wickedly important in the field of psychology because it forms the backbone for so many assessments used in this field. Having proof of reliability when it comes to the assessments we use is so important because if there was no reliability there would be no proof of the assessments being accurate or beneficial. If the assessments we are administering are deemed unreliable there would be no use in administering them. If we did administer unreliable assessments they have the potential of hindering the client’s progress. That is why we must always use assessments that have shown significantly reliable data because if not we would be doing more harm than good when it comes to helping the client we are assessing.

    Reply

    • Wendy Fernandes
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 19:35:54

      Hi Stephanie, to add to your explanation I think correlation and causation are sometimes confused because they sound so similar so people think these terms can be used interchangeably. To your point, that is why knowing definitions (especially in mental health) is so important. In a similar vein, I think that people like to believe that because two issues seem closely related then one must cause the other. The usual example given of the correlation between ice cream purchases and shark attacks properly explains correlation, but I don’t think people would have related them if it were not for a statistics class. On the other hand, issues like violent video games and gun violence seem to be so closely related that one must cause another when all that can be confirmed is a correlation.
      I liked what you said about unreliable assessments possibly hindering a client’s progress. An unreliable assessment could potentially undermine the relationship and the client’s thoughts on therapy.

      Reply

    • Magdalen Paul
      Sep 16, 2022 @ 21:36:16

      Hi Stephanie! I like how you simplified the understanding of correlation and causation, and think it’s so true that often in media and word-of-mouth, the terms are confused. Honestly, I think your simplification could help many people better understand the two concepts. I like your example for why, especially in mental health, it is crucial to know the difference between the concepts. As with soldiers who return home from serving, it is important that they not be immediately stigmatized. If the correlation/causation difference isn’t understood, this can put people at risk for being wrongfully judged. Rather than focusing on respecting, thanking and serving our soldiers in return for their service, the belief that going to war causes PTSD may lead many citizens to focus on fearing, pitying or thinking down upon them, unfortunately. It is crucial that we enter our conversations around perhaps controversial topics such as that of war and PTSD, both in and out of clinical practice, from a critical mindset. Assuming causation in mental health can lead to unintentionally placing people in a box, and perhaps closing our minds off to considering the many other factors that contribute to the development of mental health concerns.

      Reply

    • Alysha Benoit
      Sep 17, 2022 @ 23:14:53

      Hi Stephanie, you make several great points in your post. I really liked how you provided a definition of causation and correlation in your own way. I think breaking down the two terms into their own definitions could be beneficial to those just entering the field (psychology high school students and under grad). I also liked the point you made about PTSD in soldiers. PTSD seems to have a relationship with soldiers who have had trauma experiences prior to going into war/battle. Just as you said, it would be inaccurate to put the focus of blame of PTSD simply on war when there are several factors that could influence the relationship.

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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