R. Burke Johnson

Examples of Spurious Relationships

Observed Spurious Relationship Reason for the Relationship (the Third Variable)
Amount of ice cream sold and deaths by drownings (Moore, 1993) Season: Ice cream sales and drownings tend to be high during the warm months of the year.
Size of left hand and size of right hand Genetics: The size of both hands is due to genetic makeup.
Height of sons and height of daughters (Davis, 1985) Genetics: Heights of sons and daughters are both due their parents’ genetic makeup.
Ministers’ salaries and price of vodka Area (i.e., urban or rural): In urban areas, prices and salaries tend to be higher.
Shoe size and reading performance for elementary school children Age: Older children have larger shoe sizes and read better.
Number of doctors in region and number of people dying from disease Population density: In highly dense areas, there are more doctors and more people die.
Number of police officers and number of crimes (Glass & Hopkins, 1996) Population density: In highly dense areas, there are more police officers and more crimes.
Number of homicides and number of churches Population density: In highly dense areas, there are more homicides and more churches.
Number of storks sighted and the population of Oldenburg, Germany, over a six-year period (Box, Hunter & Hunter, 1978) Time: Both variables were increasing over time.
Number of public libraries and the amount of drug use Time: Both were increasing during the 1970s.
Teachers’ salaries and the price of liquor (Moore and McCabe, 1993) Time: Both tend to increase over time.
Tea drinking and lung cancer Smoking: Tea drinkers have a lower risk only because they smoke less.

1 thought on “R. Burke Johnson

  1. shinichi Post author

    Table 11.2: Examples of Spurious Relationships



    Educational Research

    Quantitative, Qualitative, and Mixed Approaches

    by R. Burke Johnson and Larry Christensen


    Chapter 11: Nonexperimental Quantitative Research


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