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Otherworld North East
Studies in the Unexplained

Website design and content © Otherworld North East 2003-2015
unless otherwise stated

The opinions expressed on this website belong to the individual authors, who also retain copyright of their own material

North East Paranormal | Newcastle Paranormal | Durham Paranormal | Northumberland Paranormal

Otherworld North East
Studies in the Unexplained

Website design and content © Otherworld North East 2003-2016
unless otherwise stated.

The opinions expressed on this website belong to the individual authors, who also retain copyright of their own material.

North East Paranormal | Newcastle Paranormal | Durham Paranormal | Northumberland Paranormal


By Lee Munro, 5th November 2012It has often been reported on investigations that certain events or measurements seem to happen in conjunction with haunting type experiences or at locations where these experiences are said to occur.  A change in EMF readings, temperature drops, seemingly whispered voices, knocks, bangs and a feeling of being touched are commonly reported.  Additionally, it is also common to research the history related to the location.  This becomes especially salient if it reveals tragedy or deaths during its habitation or occupation.

Let’s leave aside any appraisal of whether these actually do correlate with haunt type experiences.  Let us assume that it has been found that the factors mentioned do indeed correlate with locations and reports of paranormal activity.  What is wrong then with the common following assumption, that because these factors are present when experiences occur, there is a causal relationship?  That is, either such factors are causal in experiences or events (such as a tragic history or even human habitation itself) or paranormal activity causes reported factors (such as temperature drops, noises or sensing a presence).

I’ll make the case that, even if certain factors do correlate with paranormal experience, it is an error to claim them as causal factors for it. I’ll also say why it matters.

…so what is correlation?

With correlation data, you are essentially measuring the strength and direction of relationships that already exist between variables.  These relationships can be strong or weak, negative or positive.  We see or come across examples every day.  For example gender and height (males tending to be taller than females), socioeconomic status and smoking (higher proportion of smokers in lower SES categories) or traffic and air pollution (higher levels of air pollution found in areas of higher volumes of traffic).

From these examples we can see not only the strength and direction of relationships between variables, but could also the make claims at to the causal relationships between variables.  But is it that simple?

…so what is causality?

In experimental terms, we can infer causality when manipulating variable A has an effect on variable B. Well, if we want to be precise, what we actually do is reject the null hypothesis that manipulating variable A has no effect on variable B. That’s a discussion for another time however.  But in plain English, we can say variable A causes something to happen to variable B.

The issue arises when one is presented with correlation data, and then assumes a causal relationship based only on the presented data.  The following example should illustrate the point;

Suppose you have a data set that shows a correlation between wet weather and the number of traffic accidents on a particular stretch of road.  Using everyday logic, we might be confident in claiming that the wet weather caused more accidents.  It seems reasonable, and based on our own experience of driving in wet weather, it indeed seems likely.

But what if we dig a little deeper behind the numbers and pose a few questions? Are there other factors that may indicate possible causes?

Consider the following regarding the collection of the data set;

Why correlation is not causation, and why it matters.

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