Correlation vs. Causality: The Cartoon Version

I don’t know why, but academic economists just love to use cartoons in their presentations. I would guess that one out of three academic seminars includes a cartoon, and if it is a plenary talk, a cartoon is virtually guaranteed.

I don’t have anything specifically against cartoons, but to the best of my recollection, I have never in my life included one in my presentation, or linked to one from this blog — until today.

My former student Hays Golden sent me the following cartoon from, and it is so appropriate given the classes I have taught this term, that I can’t control my economist urges. I have no choice but to post it here on the blog:


Correlation does not imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing 'look over there.'

Sean Crotty

And for completeness, all xkcd comics have a secondary punchline viewable by hovering your mouse pointer over the image. Here is what it says,

"Correlation doesn't imply causation, but it does waggle its eyebrows suggestively and gesture furtively while mouthing 'look over there'."


Do not forget to read the rest of the comic (that I do not see here noted). If you don't, you miss out on most of the joke.


As an XKCD addict, I strongly recommend browsing through the rest of his cartoons - insightful, funny, ironic.

Hello From DC

XKCD is awesome. great cartoon.


In fact, the cartoon is so awesome, that Greg Mankiw decided to spruce up his blog with a link to that one too. Causation?

david watson

XKCD has for some time been my favorite cartoon, and it's strips like that one that are the reason.


i don't get it- must be correlation

Mohan Ramanathan

I work in the information security field, and this is a concept I have often tried to show my customers. XKCD does, in fact rule. It's been a fav of mine for the last five or six months, and the insights on there just keep getting sharper.

Scott B

XKCD has long been one of my favorite webcomics (thanks StumbleUpon!). It's nice to see them referenced on here!


The hover (which is usually half the point of an xkcd comic) didn't translate with the link...

Pam B

When my roommate saw this on XKCD she immediately printed it off and posted it on the wall of our dorm room. Amusing to see that it's making its rounds on the web.

Matthew R.

As a connoisseur of irony, I'm particularly gratified that the comic has a joke within a joke, both of which exhibit irony. That's hard to pull off.


I loved it. This is a recent cartoon that I really enjoyed also involving statistics:

Btw I love this blog -- took your class at UofC Spring 02 and some of these posts bring me back to those days.


As a statistician, I can tell you there are few good statistical joke, and this is one of the captures both description (as in "a correlation exists between X and Y") and probability (as in the existence of a relationship may or may not be the basis for making a given decision). Others address topics like central tendency (i.e., averages) and variability as in the story about the statistician who found himself with one foot in a bucket of boiling water, the other in ice water. When asked how he felt, he said, "on average, I'm OK, but the variability is killing me."

Who would find such stories humorous? An answer appeared on a bumper sticker stuck to a colleague's office door reading "statisticians are average lovers." Someone, however, had crossed out 'average' with a felt-tip pen and replaced it with 'mean.' So much for central tendency.

Matthew J. Marshall

Thanks for reposting this XKCD joke for all of your Freakonomics readers.

This is one of the funniest cartoons that I've seen in a long time and the esoteric punchline adds to the allure. I've shown it to some non-stats geeks and all I get is blank stares.


That's a good cartoon. Now, where's the one about the climate-change denier saying, "Correlation doesn't imply causality -- never the two shall meet!"

Oh, wait. It's because those people aren't funny, they're sad.


I was rolling when I saw this one- this is up there with "inanity of statement vs proximity to cats". That and the one where he accidently took the Fourier transform of his cat, but I think that's just me.