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Pvt. Frazer: The Witch Doctor! He gave a scream that turned my blood to ice! He shook a bag of bones in Jethro's face, and he cursed him: "Death! The Ruby will bring ye death! DEAAAAAAAAAAAAAATH!
Pvt. Pike: Did the curse come true, Mr. Frazer?
Pvt. Frazer: Aye son, it did. He died. Last year. He was eighty-six.
Pvt. Frazer and Pvt. Pike discuss the perils of treasure-hunting off Samoa, Dad's Army

Confusing correlation with causation, assuming causation because of correlation, or ignoring that there is some other factor that affects both of the things under discussion. Often summed up as "Correlation does not imply causation". Also called "Magical Thinking"note  or "Ignoring a Common Cause". The easiest way to dispel this fallacy is to remember that statistics do not occur in a vacuum: correlation only implies causation if all other factors are equal, which they frequently are not. You must take into account all factors before you can narrow down to the deciding factors.

See Correlation/Causation Gag for when this is Played for Laughs. Also see Placebotinum Effect.

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc ("After this, therefore because of this"):

First one thing happens, then another thing happens. Therefore, the first thing caused the second thing. There must be a clear temporal connection between the two things.


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    Comic Strips 
  • One Drabble comic demonstrates this. Ralph and another driver are stopped at a red light. The other guy is loudly complaining at the light as they wait for it to change, while Ralph counts down in his head. As Ralph finishes counting down, he suddenly pulls out his TV remote control, points it at the light, and presses a button... and the light turns green, much to the other guy's amazement. No, the remote didn't actually make the light change; Ralph just has this light's schedule memorized, knew when it would change, and felt like Mind Screwing somebody.
  • In one Dilbert strip, the Pointy-Haired Boss tells Dilbert that he's been receiving anonymous emails with links to articles about the world's worst bosses. He's caught on to the fact that he gets one of those emails every time he leaves Dilbert's cubicle, and says he notices the correlation. However, right outside Dilbert's cubicle, Wally sends another anonymous email to the boss, while thinking to himself, "Correlation does not imply causation."

    Films — Animation 
  • Encanto: Many of the villagers blame Mirabel's uncle Bruno for their various misfortunes (such as a dead goldfish, gaining weight, or going bald) because he predicted the occurrences ahead of time. He did not cause their misfortunes at all, and is in fact Good All Along. He simply has No Social Skills, and it doesn't help that (per Word of God) Bruno's visions were so overwhelmingly negative because he's a massive worrywart (not helped by his mother Alma, unable to move past her own trauma, pressuring him to focus on possible threats to the village). To top it off, it's implied that he wasn't actually using his powers to predict the aforementioned misfortunes - he was simply stating likely outcomes of observed behaviors (such as one man enjoying his sweets a little too much, and a lady keeping her fish in a bowl which was way too small for it). This is also why he went into hiding prior to the events of the film. After Mirabel didnít receive a gift from the house, Alma asked him to look into her future. He received a vision that Mirabel would be involved in the collapse of the house, but recognized the vision was too vague to draw a proper conclusion from. He hid the vision and left because he knew that his reputation meant that everyone would immediately assume Mirabel was the cause of the the magic failing. Sure enough, Alma immediately jumps to blaming Mirabel once the vision is discovered.
  • Played with in Rango, as an owl mariachi band tells the story of the life and death of the hero, implying that the events of the movie would lead to Rango's death. At the end of the movie, Rango is alive and well, and the owls comment that he will inevitably die some day, as he is as mortal as anyone else.

    Films — Live-Action 

  • Played for Laughs in a satirical piece by a young P.J. O'Rourke (published under the pen name "P.J. Clarke") called "La Rent Est Due" in which, to hype a supposedly politically explosive book, he claims "A lot of people have committed suicide since the first excerpt was published: an out-of-work electrician in Dayton, a teenage mother of four in Memphis, and a woman with incurable cancer in Maine. Just to name three."
  • Played for drama in a short story "Because the cat" by Jacek Dukaj, in which an implant designed to increase learning speed (by making the brain make connections between information faster) breaks down, connecting all the events the boy witnesses to the activities of his pet cat. The scientists find themselves unable to repair the damage and consider euthanizing the kid until he gets bored with being locked up, picks up the cat, and uses it to reality-warp himself out of the hospital.
  • The Mother Hive by Rudyard Kipling has this used as a sting.
    Bee Master: Aren't you confusing pod hoc with propter hoc? Wax-moth only succeed when weak bees let them in.
  • My Next Life as a Villainess: All Routes Lead to Doom!: The story starts with eight-year old Catarina realizing that she's the Alpha Bitch character in a Romance Game named Fortune Lover, whose events will happen when she will be fifteen. Two of the possible main story branches have Maria, the Fortune Lover Player Character, end up with Catarina's fiancé Geordo or Catarina's adoptive step-brother Keith. Both those scenarios end with Catarina either exiled or dead due to her general abuse of Maria and/or an outright murder attempt on her. Wanting to keep this from happening, Catarina acquires various skills to be able to find a job after her exile and counter the means by which she gets killed. She also figures out it's a good idea to act much nicer to Geordo and Keith than her Fortune Lover counterpart did and ends up Becoming the Mask. When all three of them enter the Wizarding School in which Fortune Lover is set and meet Maria, Catarina dreads the prospect of Geordo or Keith falling for Maria and killing Catarina to preserve the relationship even if she doesn't bully and/or try to kill Maria. What Catarina misses is that she wasn't killed and/or exiled to be taken out of the picture, but in response to her abuse and murder attempt, both actions that her current self would never dream of doing.
  • Discworld: While witches are certainly capable of casting Curses that actually harm people or cause ill-fortune, they prefer to rely on the fact that bad things happen to people all the time. If one of them happens after you've "cursed" them, they'll remember.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The West Wing had an episode named from the Latin name for this fallacy, "Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc". In the episode, some of the White House staffers think President Bartlet's electoral problems with Texas stem from him making fun of their big hats. Bartlet mentions the above stated phrase, correcting them that his problem with Texas is his immigration policy. Also, (jokingly?):
    Bartlet: We did not lose Texas because of the hat joke. Do you know when we lost Texas?
    CJ: When you learned to speak Latin?
    Bartlet: Go figure.
  • This is more or less the entire premise of How I Met Your Mother. The final season finally establishes the link between the events of the previous eight seasons, but it is clear that Ted could have just skipped to those events without telling his kids all the prior information. The series finale reveals what the real reason behind all of this was, and that has a logical correlation to the events of the show. Widower Ted is telling his kids about his romantic history with Robin to explain that he wants to pursue a relationship with her (the Mother died ten years prior).
  • Invoked by Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory when his mother claims that the prayers of her church group are responsible for his surviving in the Arctic.
  • Star Trek: The Next Generation: In "Hero Worship", the Enterprise finds a child who was the lone survivor of a destroyed starship and thinks he caused its destruction because he accidentally hit a computer console when he was thrown off-balance just before everything blew up.
  • Friends: Phoebe refuses to go to the dentist because every time she's gone in the past someone she knew has died while she was in the chair. When her current toothache becomes too painful she reluctantly makes an appointment and the first thing she does afterwards is call every single person she knows to make sure nobody has died.
    Phoebe: That's why I take such good care of my teeth now, y'know, it's not about oral hygiene, I floss to save lives!
    Ross: Pheebs, come on, you didn't kill anybody, these people just happened to die when you went to the dentist. It's just a coincidence.
    Phoebe: Well tell that to them. Oh! You can't, they're dead.
  • Invoked in an episode of Monk. A pharmacist had killed his partner years ago and buried him on church property. When he learns the church plans on expanding, which would lead to the body's discovery, he concocts a scheme to stop them. He switches out patients' prescriptions for sugar pills so that their conditions worsen, then suggests that they drink from the church's fountain. Once he learns that they have, he starts giving them proper medicine again, so their conditions "miraculously" improve. As far as the patients know, they've been getting the medicine all along, but their symptoms only improved after drinking the holy water, therefore the holy water must be responsible for their recovery.

  • "Don't Go into Politics", a novelty song by The Arrogant Worms, argues that you should refrain from becoming a politician, scientist, or musician, on the grounds that so many famous people — like George Washington, Albert Einstein, or Jimi Hendrix — did so, and are now dead.

  • Reefer Madness: The Musical has a propagandist who shows a Show Within a Show where two high-school sweethearts come to a ludicrous end after smoking weed. However, in a truly funny scene, the high schoolers sing about misinterpreting Romeo And Juliet as a story sure to have a happy ending. The propagandist then commits this fallacy. He holds a Bible and says if only the schools spent less time on "Bill Shakespeare" and more on a "higher author," then young people would not go astray.

    Web Animation 
  • In the seventh Tobuscus Animated Adventure, Tobuscus sees Gabuscus drinking a soda-cola after opening it (even though the label says you're supposed to refrigerate it after opening). Shocked, Tobuscus turns on the news to find out that a Zombie Apocalypse has begun, and immediately places the blame on Gabuscus' bottle.

    Web Comics 
  • The Order of the Stick:
    • The straw lawyers once argued that the detect evil spell causes health problems, since a number of people it has been cast on are now dead. Think, why would you cast detect evil on someone? This being posed to Miko Miyazaki, who, despite often living in her own little world where she suffers from her own instance of this ("I am a paladin, therefore the works done by my hand are good for all involved"), isn't fooled.
      Miko: Of course they did! I killed them, because they were evil!
    • In a later strip, a group of prisoners are sharing stories about how ludicrously overpowered halflings throwing rocks are. One guy knew someone who was hit with a rock by a halfling, and three months later he was eaten by a tiger.
    • The Empress of Blood has correctly determined that larger dragons tend to be more powerful. However, she somehow decided that they are more powerful because they are larger (rather than that the size and power of dragons are both functions of advanced age), and therefore spends her days gorging herself to gain as much weight as possible.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: One strip both discusses and mocks this trope. One guy says he doesn't believe events are causally connected. His friend turns out the light, pulls out a gun, and a shot rings out. When his friend exclaims in dismay at the bullet in his arm, he blames it on the darkness.
  • xkcd parodied this concept in this strip, in which a character's greater understanding of this trope may or may not have been caused by the statistics class thay took.

    Web Original 
  • Ironically, given the number of post hoc fallacies floating about regarding diabetes, in early 2017 a poster on the Diabetes UK forum (on a thread about statins) said that he refuses to take statins because "there's a correlation with taking more than 3 meds and dementia". Indeed there is — because those suffering any severe health problem, such as dementia, are likely to be suffering from other health problems as well (no part of the human body lives in splendid isolation), and thus to be prescribed meds for all of them. Refusing to take more than a certain number of meds because of fearing this correlation is more likely to cause further problems than to prevent them.
  • One Not Always Right story has a clerk working in a shop where the bathroom light turns on a short while after the switch is flipped. One impatient customer drags the clerk over without paying attention to the clerk's explanation and flicks the switch back and forth to prove his point. The clerk then flips the switch to on and yells "STRUN BAH QO" (Storm Call) just before the lights turn on. The customer is left awestruck that the Dragonborn stands before him.

    Web Videos 
  • h3h3productions made a collab with PewDiePie in early 2017 where PewDiePie portrays a far more self-centered and greedy version of himself. Around the same time, YouTube had a glitch that caused subscriber counts to appear as if they were rapidly dropping, which made Ethan of h3h3 briefly think he had killed PewDiePie's channel.
  • Cynical spoof-journalist Jonathan Pie confidently predicted everything good or bad will be attributed to Brexit for years to come.
  • Discussed in this TED-Ed video featuring the "Demon of Reason" character, using the example of Charles Meigs' claim in 1843 that abdominal inflammation was what led to the childbed fever women contracted and usually died to after giving birth. The Demon of Reason promptly expresses that Meigs not only failed to consider other possibilities (such as coincidence, fever causing inflammation, or an unknown shared cause between the two), but that he also failed to consider whatever cause the inflammation itself could have had in the first place. By contrast, Meigs' contemporary Oliver Wendell Holmes theorized that an unknown contaminant— discovered to be streptococcus bacteria in the decades following— was what caused the fever, and that it was being spread from patient to patient by doctors who had autopsied previous childbed fever victims without cleaning their hands afterwards. The Demon of Reason notes how Holmes' theory in particular gave room for further investigation (and thus potential cures to childbed fever), compared to the dead end seen in Meigs' conclusion.

    Western Animation 
  • Justice League:
    • One episode features a journalist claiming that since white-collar crime has risen since the League formed, the League clearly causes that crime (in fact, given the League's style, it's entirely possible that the smarter criminals turn to white-collar rather than blue-collar crime to reduce the chances of Superman slapping them around Metropolis, but his logic still doesn't track).
    • An even better example (from that same episode, that same scene, and that same character) would be when the talk show host demands that the Flash explain why since the League was formed 50% of all marriages end in divorce, and the rest end in death. Not only is there no connection between the founding of the Justice League and divorce rates, of course all the other marriages end in death. The couples who didn't get divorced simply grew old and died naturally, by accidents, etc. Hence the phrase "'til death do you part".
  • In one episode of South Park, banning Kentucky Fried Chicken causes a violent Black Market economy to spring up. Meanwhile, legalizing medical marijuana causes people to give themselves testicular cancer deliberately so they can legally get marijuana. The authorities look at the situation, and deduce that legalizing medical marijuana caused gang violence and legalizing Kentucky Fried Chicken will prevent testicular cancer.

    Real Life 
  • "Before women got the vote, there were no nuclear weapons!" is sometimes offered as an example of this kind of logical error — while in all probability this idea has never been advanced as a serious argument, it does throw a stark illumination on political screeds from either end of the spectrum.
  • The "gateway drug" theory relies heavily on this fallacy. Typically, it is noted that out of a sample of heavy drug users, over 95% of them started out using marijuana (or alcohol). The same claim could be made about bread or water. A less fallacious case for marijuana as a gateway drug would be citing the percentage of marijuana smokers who progress to harder drugs. That number is nowhere near as impressively high, though.
    • This is also subject to the "Ignoring the Common Cause" variant, as showing people progressing from weed to hard drugs doesn't prove that the weed caused the escalation. Another likely explanation is that the same factor (poor judgment or impulse control, risk-seeking personalities) led to the person taking both drugs, but that they started with weed because it was cheaper or easier to obtain. Also, an often-ignored common cause is that marijuana and hard drugs are both illegal, so that the same pushers often deal in both.
    • It is also suggested that when the people first hear horror stories about marijuana, and after experimenting realize that its effects are far less impressive and dangerous than advertised, they think that the same must apply to all the other drugs as well.
  • Want to drive a Psychology major insane? Tell him Prozac can cause suicide. After he stops frothing at the mouth, he'll try to explain: "Prozac is prescribed to people with depression — already statistically more likely to commit suicide. Prozac, like all depression medication, takes at least a few weeks to start working. Some depressed teenager probably killed themselves after starting it, but before it started working."
    • Fluoxetine is widely regarded by the American Medical Association as increasing the risk of suicidal ideation but not causing suicide. It actually carries a "Black Box Warning" saying there is an increased chance of suicidal ideation with the use of many anti-depressants in patients under 25. Older adults showed decreased suicidal idealization. The "folk" explanation in the medical community is some depressed individuals are "too depressed to kill themselves," and when they feel better, they start thinking about steps to "end their depression." For most people, that means positive changes. For others...more drastic solutions come to mind. And the anorgasmia can't help.
  • When a laptop processor overheats, the cooling fan spins faster to try and compensate, a normal responses coded in the system BIOS. When this happens, a large number of people will call in technical support insisting on getting a new fan because it's "clearly heating up the system by spinning too hard."
  • Kellogg's was sued for false advertising after claiming "A clinical study showed kids who had a filling breakfast of Frosted Mini-Wheats cereal improved their attentiveness by nearly 20 percent." This was 20% higher compared to kids who had no breakfast at all. Obviously, the kids who had Mini-Wheats were more attentive because they ate breakfast and weren't hungry, not because they ate Mini-Wheats for breakfast.
  • The logic behind the "roleplaying games cause suicide via Satanism" scares, such as the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, relied on this fallacy. Not only is there no causation from games like Dungeons & Dragons to suicide, there's no correlation, either. People who play D&D are actually less likely to commit suicide, since the social interaction that comes from having like-minded people around you doing an activity you like is a big mood-booster. Old TTRPG books may have shown demons and devils on the covers of their books, but claiming that this promoted Satanism is also untrue; frequently, such a creature as an Evil Overlooker was showing what you were fighting against, not fighting for.
  • Pretty much any story of "The Curse of..." something, be it a TV show or Tutenkamen's tomb, seems to be based on how, ultimately, everyone dies of something. Very rarely do any two people under such a "curse" die the same way, or in the same general time period.
  • Any time a claim is made that reads, "I took this remedy, and now I feel better, so it works." Whether the remedy is traditional evidence-based medicine, traditional herbal remedies, or New Age alternative health based, this claim is fallacious as the "remedy" may have been a placebo. The best way to determine effectiveness of a remedy is through a double-blind clinical trial.
    • This is believed to be the origin of the old Suck Out the Poison remedy: the truth is, a lot of snake bites are survivable or even harmless, and a lot of snakes that are truly dangerous bite as a warning without injecting any venom. In reality, sucking out the poison is somewhere between "useless" and "harmful", unless you can somehow do the procedure in between the bite and the person's next heartbeat (at which point it's already being carried to the rest of the body). But you sucked out the poison and the person lived, so...
    • The same is true of claims of divine intervention or prayer. A claim that prayer or God's will saved an individual's life runs afoul of this fallacy. Whether the claim is true or not is not a good thing to argue here. However, the claim, "I had cancer. I saw a faith healer. My cancer spontaneously went into remission. Therefore prayer worked," is logically fallacious.
      • This last has an interesting connection to Catholicism. In order to be canonized — recognized as a saint — a dead person must be provably in Heaven. Now, in Catholic doctrine, lots of people are saints in that they are in Heaven, but not canonized because the Church on Earth can't know for sure. So they have to produce evidence that the deceased is there and not Purgatory, and the main way to do this is to look for miracles. The most common kind of claimed miracles are the medical sort — you get sick, you pray for the saint's intercession, you get better against the odds. However, to avoid this fallacy as much as possible, the Church rigorously investigates the claimed miracle to see if it has any conceivable rational explanation; if the doctors can gin up any theory, however implausible, that explains your cure, the claimed miracle is insufficient grounds for canonization. Only if the doctors are completely stumped and have no idea how you could be cured is it considered to be a likely miracle, and frankly at that point, the miraculous explanation becomes more believable if you're a believer in the first place. To its credit, the Church recognizes that it might very well be wrong and be executing the fallacy anyway, but it certainly minimizes the chances. They have however been criticized as being lax in recent times.
  • "The '60s is when the drug culture which plagues us today got started, therefore the Sixties are to blame for all our present ills." Apart from the drug culture which was always there simply becoming more visible then, by that logic we should instead be blaming the Victorian era, which had a far worse drug problem. In that era most drugs were legal though, so this may be why there is less attention without associated crimes.
  • A good example of this fallacy is the idea that, because thunder follows lightning, that lightning causes thunder. In fact, they actually are the same thing — lightning is the sight and thunder is the sound. The delay occurs merely because sound travels more slowly than light.
  • Chemotherapy often causes nausea. If you eat the same thing before every chemo session, your body will quickly conclude that the food is to blame, and you'll develop a conditioned taste aversion to it. To counter this, many treatment centers will give their patients a "scapegoat food" of something obscure that you probably never ate before and won't miss. It helps that the body is more inclined to blame unfamiliar foods — if you ate pizza and some weird new thing before you got sick, and pizza never made you sick before, logically the weird new thing must be to blame, right?
  • Whenever there's a natural disaster that claims lives, there's a chance that The Fundamentalist of some religion will claim that it was "Insert preferred Deity here" punishing humans for committing sin. These people tend to ignore the fact these disasters also happen in places that condemn said sin.
  • The idea that formula is "baby poison" and therefore that breastfeeding is the only way to go. This idea came about back in The '70s, and it had to do with a marketing campaign from one of the major formula-producers, Nestle. They were marketing this product in poor countries, where clean water was hard to come by, and where people were often not educated about germ theory and why it's important to sterilize baby bottles. In addition, the formula was expensive for these women, which led them to dilute it to stretch their supply (reducing its nutritional value). The result of all this was an uptick in these countries in infant mortality, because those babies were dying from diseases and parasites (from the contaminated water), and malnutrition (from diluted formula). This led to a general distrust of baby formula, conspiracy theories, a push for mothers to breastfeed, and a long-running boycott against Nestle.
  • Shortly after Britain joined what was then the Common Market, there was a sugar shortage — which protestors claimed was "caused by the Common Market". It was actually caused (or at any rate made far worse than it would otherwise have been) by selfish people getting wind of it and panic-buying and stockpiling. This was accidentally proved by a pundit on BBC Radio 4 jokingly stating "there will be a salt shortage next" — with the result that there was a salt shortage by the end of that day.
  • Some people believe that bedwetting causes psychopathy, because some children who wet the bed grew up to become psychopaths. Actually, the psychopathy was caused by childhood trauma, which also caused the bedwetting.
  • In Victorian England, arsenic was used in wallpaper, which then leaked out of the walls in damp weather and made people sick. The doctors prescribed going to the beach, and it worked, but not because the beach cured them. Instead, it was because they were away from the arsenic.
  • The Catch Your Death of Cold myth partially stemmed from this fallacy (the rest stemmed from Cum Hoc) when people noticed they developed symptoms after being exposed to low temperatures. Actually, they were already infected; the low temperatures just brought the illness out of its incubation period.
  • While some people are sensitive to spicy food, other people mistakenly think spicy food made them sick because they ate some overseas and then got sick. In these cases, it's usually not because the food was spicy but because it was washed in contaminated water.
  • Part of the reason why some people are averse to mentioning certain illnesses by name is a superstitious believe that saying the name of the disease caused the disease. This was because in the past, when diseases were spreading, people would gossip about who had caught the disease, only to later catch it themselves.
  • The reason PTSD used to be called "shell shock" is because people thought it was caused by the artillery shells exploding. In reality, it was caused by the trauma of the war as a whole, but the artillery shells exploding could trigger an attack.

Cum Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc ("With this, therefore because of this"):

A less well-known but equally commonly used sibling fallacy to Post Hoc, Cum Hoc is saying that because A and B occur together, A causes B. The difference between Post Hoc and Cum Hoc is that Post Hoc has a clear temporal relationship — A happens first, then B, while Cum Hoc implies causality due to two things occurring at the same time. Also, where Post Hoc usually deals with individual events, Cum Hoc almost always deals with two or more series of events, or ongoing trends. Like Post Hoc, Cum Hoc ignores the possibility that there may be one or more additional factors that affect both A and B, or even that B may be in fact causing A.

This fallacy commonly involves comparing two graphs to each other. One classic example used by racists is to use crime rate figures sorted by race to "prove" that races are predisposed towards becoming criminals; this ignores that minority races are statistically more likely to be living in poverty, and that people who live in poverty—regardless of race—are more likely to turn to crime.

Journalism is particularly prone to committing this fallacy, since journalists are obliged to turn a complex issue into a snappy headline. So, for example, a study showing a correlation between living near high-tension power-lines and certain types of cancer will be covered as "researchers prove power lines linked to cancer."


  • In Dumbo (2019), the film's take on the Magic Feather trope is done like this: the first few times Dumbo propels himself into the air are the result of him sneezing from a feather caught in his trunk, leading his human friends to conclude that he can't fly without one.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Law & Order:
    • This exact argument is used in an SVU episode where some kids attacked a woman and killed her. The kids played a video game with a similar attack, therefore, the video game caused them to attack the woman.
    • In an episode of the mothership series, the defense lawyer for the serial killer of the week used a Media Watchdog witness to try to prove his client's violent actions were caused by violent TV. The prosecution destroys the argument by pointing out that if violent TV created violent people then everyone in the courtroom would be violent because everybody watches violent TV.
  • The Mandalorian: One of the thugs at the beginning of Chapter 1 gets in Mando's face for spilling his drink when he entered the building. However, the drink had already been spilled by the thug himself when he stood up and hit the table in the process.
  • In an episode of NUMB3RS, Charlie tells Don about the ice cream-rape correlation. As the sales of ice cream goes up, so do the number of rapes. The key is both take place during summer.

  • The Katie Melua song "United Artists" presents one before skeptically undercutting it somewhat in the next line;
    Mary Pickford
    Used to eat roses—
    Thought that they'd make her beautiful,
    And they did...
    (One supposes)

    Puppet Shows 
  • Sesame Street had a Bert & Ernie sketch where Ernie held a banana in his ear, claiming it kept away alligators.
    Bert: But there aren't any alligators on Sesame Street!
    Ernie: I know, it's working!

    Video Games 
  • Played for Laughs in Kingdom of Loathing. Apparently, the reason rich people have all kinds of stuff that poor people don't is because they have monocles with which to find it.
  • Played for Laughs in World of Warcraft, with Griftah's trinkets and necklaces. An excellent example is the "Infallible Tikbalang Ward", which supposedly protects you from getting stolen to the treetops by a tikbalang. Despite the game being a Fantasy Kitchen Sink, tikbalangs do not exist in the game.
  • In Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek, the eponymous wolf is hunted by Ollie because she happens to show up whenever a disaster happens. In truth, the disasters are caused by a very human saboteur vacationing in the area. The wolf's appearances are entirely Red Herrings that foreshadow her interest in human affection and activity, which is unusual but has a logical cause unrelated to the mystery.

    Web Comics 
  • xkcd:
  • This comic from PHD Comics makes fun of journalists' tendency to use this fallacy when reporting on scientific findings.
  • The Order of the Stick: Someone once told the red dragon Empress of Blood that more powerful dragons have grown larger. So now she spends all her time stuffing her face to gain as much weight as possible. Since she's a Puppet King, this may have been intentional.

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • In the American Dad! episode "A Smith in the Hand", Stan (who becomes addicted to masturbating after accidentally doing so while applying ointment to his penis) comes to the conclusion that he watches TV all the time and masturbates all the time, therefore TV causes him to masturbate. He then tells Steve that he constantly thinks about sex because he watches too much TV.
  • The Simpsons:
    • In "Much Apu About Nothing", a bear randomly appearing in the neighborhood leads the mayor to fund a massive Bear Patrol scheme. Homer claims that the lack of bears proves the Bear Patrol works, at which point Lisa points out that you might as well say that a rock keeps tigers away, since she's holding the rock, and she can't see any tigers. Homer's response? "Lisa, I want to buy your rock."
    • In "Radioactive Man", Bart meets a guy who apparently lives in an old Spirograph factory. As Bart goes to leave, the guy ominously warns "there's a direct correlation between the decline in Spirograph use and the rise in gang activity!"

    Real Life 
  • A prominent example often used in statistics classes: In a study of one particular area of Denmark, it was found that the stork population rose at the same rate as the human birth rate. Clearly, then, the two were causally connected, right? Nope. Both increases were caused by the presence of several new residential suburbs geared toward young couples. The human population skewed toward people who were likely to be having children, and the new roofs provided ideal stork nesting grounds.
  • Probably the most famous case of this was the Spanish Flu. It earned the name because at first, the only place that was really reporting cases was Spain, causing many to believe it was hit particularly hard, or that it was the origin of the disease, or even that it caused the plague. In reality, Spain was the only one reporting cases because the plague hit during the closing years of World War I, and most countries involved in the war weren't eager to tell their citizens that on top of thousands of men being gunned down in brutal trench warfare, there was also a disease running like wildfire through the populace. Spain, being neutral, considered containing the plague to be its top priority. It's actually believed to have been first reported in the United States, and mostly hit the countries participating in the war.
  • The rationale behind a great many superstitions, especially personal ones, e.g.: "I was wearing these socks when I hit two home runs in a game. Therefore, these socks must be lucky, and I should wear them every day." Some of B.F. Skinner's pigeons demonstrated similar thinking when he conducted an experiment in which pellets of food were dropped into their cages at fixed intervals no matter what they did: some of them nevertheless started repeating various actions they'd been doing when the first pellet arrived in hopes that it would bring them another one...which it did, confirming that their "lucky" action was causing them to keep getting more food.
  • As noted in Darrel Huff's famous book, How to Lie with Statistics, a bunch of islanders once noticed that whenever they were sick, they didn't have lice, whereas whenever they were healthy, they did. Their conclusion? Having lice makes you healthy. Everyone should have them. Thus they managed to draw a conclusion completely opposed to the reality, which was that having lice was making them sick, which gave them a fever, and that fever was subsequently driving away the lice.
  • This fallacy often comes up in discussions of violence related to video games. The claim is that violent video games cause or encourage violent behavior in real life. The other possible sources of correlation include, but are not limited to; that violence-prone people tend to enjoy violent games; that some violent people prefer non-social activities that include games; that video games are simply becoming ubiquitous enough that almost every child plays them, so naturally the violent ones did too. Similar claims have been made about supposedly sexist video games causing misogyny.
  • Many gun control campaigns have their roots in this sort of thinking. For example, the scare regarding Teflon-coated "cop killer" bullets. Armor-piercing bullets are generally made of harder materials than standard ammunition (such as solid brass), so they use a Teflon coating to reduce barrel wear. The scare falsely identified the Teflon coating as the reason the bullets could pierce armor, resulting in several states banning Teflon-coated ammunition despite armor-piercing ammunition already being banned at the Federal level. The Assault Weapons Ban is a similar case, where superficial aspects of a weapon with no bearing on its performance (for example, whether it had a lug for fitting a bayonet) were used to judge whether it qualified as an "assault weapon" rather than the weapon's actual capabilities.
  • This fallacy was used by Frederic Wertham to establish The Comics Code. He noted that juvenile delinquents tended to read comic books, so comic books must cause juvenile delinquency. Of course, during this time period, comic books were more popular in America than ever before or ever since — the typical child read about 5 comics a week. Even adults weren't far behind, many of whom had picked up the habit during World War II when comics were sent overseas to servicemen.
  • This has also been used to argue that listening to Country Music causes higher suicide rates, since places with a higher percentage of country music listening tend to also have a higher percentage of suicide. Of course, the places that listen to country music tend to be poor and rural — and poor, rural areas tend to have relatively high rates of suicide.
  • A similar argument is that slow country songs lead to alcoholism. This began when someone noticed that alcohol consumption in bars increased when bands played slow songs. Did it occur to this genius that people simply stopped dancing and ordered more drinks at that time?
  • Pastafarianism claims that pirates prevent global warming, as the number of pirates is decreasing while temperatures increase, as a parody of this type of thinking to demonstrate the flaw in logic.
  • A particularly absurd example: The pretty-much-undefinable Column 8 in the Sydney Morning Herald once featured a letter correlating the difficulty of the newspaper's Sudoku with the price of petrol.
  • Autism and Thimerisol. Oh, where to begin? When doctors started to include Thimerisol in vaccines, in the early 1990s, the rates of autism increased as well (really due to autism becoming more well-known, along with the ever-increasing number of behaviors being called symptoms of autism), and despite several studies finding no link between Thimerisol and autism (and removal of Thimerisol from vaccines), people still insist that the Thimerisol in vaccines causes autism.
    • Something similar happens with MMR, with children showing symptoms of autism shortly after receiving the first dose. Never mind that MMR vaccinations are typically first administered in 1-year-old children, i.e. a few months before the age where autism starts, y'know, showing symptoms.
  • A favorite tactic of journalists trying to make attention-grabbing articles and people trying to promote a specific lifestyle is to claim "people who do X are healthier/live longer/etc., therefore you should do X because it is good for you." Usually, it is much more likely that healthy and/or health-conscious people are more likely to do X, or that people have to be healthy in order to do X on a regular basis. For examples:
    • Of the first type: The healthiest people tend to be people who floss. This is not to say that flossing causes you to be the healthiest kind of person, but rather, those who floss tend to do every other generally recommended healthy action, with flossing being one of the most rare.
    • Of the second type: People who get up in the morning and run a mile before breakfast tend to be some of the healthiest people around. Sure, exercise helps you be healthy, but when's the last time you saw an out-of-shape guy who was physically capable of running a mile?
  • This umm... rather controversial piece about things rich people do more than poor people like reading and eating healthier. Comments were apparently not exactly positive.
  • The Urban Legend of the "Curse of the Crying Boy" claims that the titular painting causes misfortune to whoever owns it since copies were often found among the ruins of burned down houses during the 1980s. The reality was that it was an extremely mass produced and popular painting and thus was found in many houses in general, not just burned ones. (Indeed, the linked article shows that it wasn't even just one painting, but at least three different ones.)
    • Karl Pilkington once presented this legend as fact on The Ricky Gervais Show. Naturally Ricky immediately shot him down by the reason explained above and added that by that logic, sinks also cause fires since every house that ever burned down had a sink in it.
  • A common claim in tabloid newspapers is that "obesity causes [type 2] diabetes". This ignores the facts that most obese people don't develop diabetes, that 20% of people diagnosed with type 2 are not overweight at diagnosis, or that the evidence could also indicate that diabetes causes obesity.
  • It's sometimes argued that "Harry Potter is a corrupting influence" because of the spectacular way in which Harry Potter actor Jamie Waylett went bad. Of the dozens of cast and hundreds of crew, one person went bad, and that's not near enough to "prove" malignancy. There's no way anyone can know if Waylett wouldn't have turned out the way he did anyway, or that he wasn't already headed in that direction before being cast in the Harry Potter movies. To use an example from the series proper, this would be like saying "all wizards in Voldemort's class will turn out evil because Voldemort turned out evil."
  • The Catch Your Death of Cold myth stems partially from this and partially from Post Hoc. There is a higher rate of infections in the winter, but that's for two reasons, neither of which is the low temperatures in themselves. Firstly, the air is drier and so airborne viruses can spread quicker, and secondly, people are more likely to be inside during the winter, so the viruses spread due to proximity. There were even more reasons for illness being more common in the winter in the past: in Victorian Britain, people used arsenic in their wallpaper, which leaked out and made people sick during damp weather, and in pre-industrial times, people would sell crops in the late fall, come back with diseases they'd contracted, and those diseases would spread while the temperatures were coincidentally dropping.
  • The idea of a "sugar high" is actually a myth. Scientists reckon that part of its origin is that during parties, kids both ate a lot of sugar and were hyper— but the hyperactivity comes from the fun party atmosphere, not the sugar.
  • A common medical myth is that drinking a glass of wine a day reduces heart disease. In fact regular drinking in any amount increases the risk, but it's very small compared to a teetotaller, and people who drink once a day usually have healthier lifestyles that allow them to drink with fewer consequences.


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Alternative Title(s): Correlation Does Not Equal Causation, Correlation Does Not Imply Causation, Correlation Implies Causation


Star Trek Logical Thinking

The two engineers think that landing heavy shuttles first causes the tractor beam to malfunction, just because it happens before it.

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Main / FalseCause

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