Difference between Causation and Correlation

Key Difference: Correlation is the measurement of relationship occurring between two things. On the other hand, causation means that one thing will cause the other. Causation can also be termed as cause-effect feature.

Correlation occurs when two or more things or events occur at the same time. They may share some kind of association with each other. However, correlation implies that this is not definitely due to cause/effect type of relationship. The term correlation is defined as departure of two variables from independence. It is just referring to the scenario where two quantities vary but at the same time. It tries to find out the answer to this question that how they vary.

A positive correlation is the one in which if frequency of one is increased, then the same change is reflected in the other. On the other hand, in negative correlation, the frequencies exhibit reverse characterizes (one increases and other decreases).

An example of positive correlation is that the demand of a product rises then its price also tends to go up. Now, both demand and price are two different entities but are varying together. However, this does not imply that demand is caused definitely due to increase in price as the price may go higher due to expensive raw material, or any other factor.

Causation assists in determining the existence of a relation between variables. It is transitive in nature, which means that if a is the cause b, and then b is the cause of c, then a is the cause of c. One tends to derive this inference from correlation data. Three conditions must hold true for claiming this causing effect. These conditions are related to the time precedence, relationship and nonspuriousness. An example of causation is that he works late and earns more money. Here, there is a direct relationship between the employee and money earned by him.

Causation seems to be more precise than correlation as correlation is just describing that both entities are moving together. Practically, establishing correlation is easier than establishing a clear causation. Causality should only be accepted when there are enough clear reasons, otherwise it’s always wise to use correlation in place of causality. Causation may not imply causation but it helps in suggesting the one.

Comparison between Causation and Correlation:





It refers to the cause and effect phenomenon, in which one thing causes the change in the other

The phenomenon of two variables varying together. The variables are said to be correlated.

Difficulty to establish




Smoking causes lung cancer

Smoking is correlated with alcoholism

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