post hoc, ergo propter hoc

I’m looking at some research and can only think, "post hoc, ergo propter hoc". That’s Latin for "after it, therefore because of it". It means that if one thing follows another, one thing also causes another. (it’s also the title of one of my favorite episodes of the West Wing of all time. When the president asked who knew what it meant, I confess to shouting the answer at the TV set at the time, but I digress)

The problem is that type of causal relationship like is almost never true. It’s a common mistake that analysts often make and clearly the author of this report fell into this trap. I won’t name the analyst or the report, I’m not out to embarrass anyone in public so please don’t ask. If you come across it, you’ll recognize it.

One response to “post hoc, ergo propter hoc

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