Sunday, December 19, 2010

Correlation, Causality, and Parenting Studies

Alan and Bo are both quoted in this new article from Brain, Child magazine. In addition to discussing substantive issues of causal inference, author Katy Read also probes the chain of diffusion of social-science research.

The chain begins, of course, with the investigators who conducted the research. Those who conduct correlational studies typically include a statement of limitations at the end of their articles, noting that the findings are open to alternative causal interpretations. In less-guarded moments, however, even research scientists will use phraseology that implies a preferred causal direction.

Universities, research institutes, and/or professional organizations may then issue press releases on a particular study. Ultimately, a research finding may make it into the media. At each reporting step removed from the (methodologically trained) scientific investigators, therefore, statements of caution regarding causality are less likely to appear.

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