Excess Correlation Linked To Claims Of Causation Without Proof

from the correlation-and-causation dept

Over on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s CNN blog, there’s a report claiming that excess gaming is linked to depression and bad grades, with the report clearly suggesting that those “addicted” to gaming get depressed and do poorly. It even trots out the old silly argument about making “video game addiction” an official disorder. But, of course, the study is really only showing a correlation between these things, rather than any sort of causal relationship. One could just as plausibly argue that depressed kids choose to deal with or mask their depression by playing more video games. But, I guess headlines that say “depression causes kids to play more video games” isn’t as catchy as assuming it’s the other way around. Those who have worked with compulsive video gamers have found that there’s almost always a separate cause, and treating the problem as “video game addiction,” rather than figuring out why the person wants to play so much, tends not to work.

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Comments on “Excess Correlation Linked To Claims Of Causation Without Proof”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Correlation and causation can both happen at the same time through the magic of positive feedback, and everyone can be right. For example, if a depressed person plays more videos games, then you can be right. If the video games make a person more depressed, then Dr Gupta can be right in his diagnosis. He can be right in his prescription, as well: taking away the video games will break the positive feedback loop and remove a contributor to depression. Since removing video games must necessarily result in replacements such as going outdoors in the sunshine or socializing with friends, all of which lead to less depression than sitting in a chair and watching pixels move about.

Planespotter (profile) says:

The CNN article is based on research by Professor Douglas Gentile, there is a question and answer session done by Playstationlifestyle.net here >> http://playstationlifestyle.net/2011/01/24/the-dark-side-of-gaming-professor-douglas-gentile-on-depression-and-addiction/ and I think the actual paper can be downloaded/read here >> http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/cgi/reprint/peds.2010-1353v1.

I still think it’s a great moral panic!

Jose_X (profile) says:


>> Since removing video games must necessarily result in replacements such as

Well, if depression came “first” in this feedback cycle, then removing games should not be expected to lead to a resolution of the depression (eg, get sunshine or socialize).

It might lead to a resolution (eg, now I have some experiences to share in social contexts where I failed before), in which case we can thank gaming, or it might lead to looking for another escape that won’t resolve the depression and might do more harm (eg, drug abuse).

The Cabin (user link) says:

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The Cabin Chiang Mai is Thailand?s leading drug and alcohol rehabilitation center. The Cabin Chiang Mai was founded to provide high quality affordable drug and alcohol rehab treatment to addicts worldwide. Our rehab center is located on the enchanting banks of the Mae Ping River just outside of Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand. Surrounded by the lush green forests and flower gardens of Thailand, our addiction rehab treatment center provides our patients with a peaceful and restorative environment where they can heal their addictions and take back their lives.

Hephaestus (profile) says:


“Basically, they used the “Masnick Effect” on the data, allowing the results to be based not so much on fact, but on what they wanted it to say to start with.”

I do have to say mike does this sometimes, but so does everyone else. People see things as through the filter of what they believe. You are no different, after all you attached a label to it, the “Masnick Effect”, which shows your belief.

Also … is it my imaginiation or are the titles of these stories getting more tabloidish recently?

Hephaestus (profile) says:


” Proof if nothing else that cause and effect often come from the same place.”

Mike is sometime guilty of that. Agiain we all are. In the case of this article. Its a combination of both Correlation, and Causation. Where depression causes the escapism and gaming, and there is a correlation between the loss of friends due to gaming and depression. Its a gray area that is case dependent. So both titles hold …

“Gaming causes depression” and “Depression causes gaming”

Also do you want to see the cat in a box my uncle schrodinger left me? 🙂

Jim G. says:


I have had many conversation with friends about whether playing violent video games makes someone more likely to commit violence themselves. We always laugh at this idea and mock the people who believe it.

Then we casually comment ?Of course, I nearly flunked Calculus in school and my best friend DID get an F, and I lost my girlfriend when the WoW expansion came out, and I got in trouble at work just last week for reading message boards. But violence? HA!?

I will admit that computer games are my heroin. They are the perfect escape in which I seem to be awake and thinking, but I am actually lost in a dream world. They give me the illusion of success, an illusion so compelling that I can?t shake it off. ?Well, you didn?t get that promotion at work? my brain says to me, ?but you DID get your archmage to level 20! What a productive day!?

AZ Libertarian says:

Another possible cause ...

For me, watching CNN causes minor depression, so I turn it off. Clearly established cause-effect.

Remember when Gupta failed to correct the error that “embryos aren’t fertilized?” http://newsbusters.org/blogs/matthew-balan/2009/03/12/cnns-gupta-fails-correct-bill-clinton-s-multiple-fertilized-gaffe

Gupta’s junk science is caused by an excess of political correctness. Now that’s cause and effect.

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