Correlation, on its own, cannot completely account for the relationship between a cause and an effect. It can only explain the observed associations in the attributes or variations involving two variables. In contrast, causation, both in ideographic and nomothetic models, gives a causal explanation for a particular effect. This difference shows that an association does not necessarily mean that there is a cause/effect relationship between variables. Correlation is one criterion for achieving causality, meaning that a variable must cause an effect in another for them to be considered correlated. Thus, a causal relationship always involves a correlation between two variables. Additionally, the cause must come before the effect to make a causal explanation logical. The third condition is that the cause/effect relationship must be non-spurious. This means that one must be able to explain the correlation between the two variables without involving an extraneous factor.
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One can make causal inferences if the two variables meet the conditions stated above. Assuming I intend to study the causes of poor grades in middle school, I will use ideographic and nomothetic approaches to give a causal explanation for this observation. The ideographic model explains the personal idiosyncrasies and experiences that account for the differences in the respondents’ views while the nomothetic approach explains the general patterns observed in the cases. This will require quantitative data to determine the correlation between the two variables. A positive or negative association between the variables will suggest a causal relationship.
For one to make legitimate causal inferences, the cause must be sufficient and necessary. In this view, I will focus on a single ideographic condition, which must occur for a middle school student to perform poorly. Thus, I will need to conduct a case study of a specific middle school to determine the relationships among different variables. The units of analysis that the study will focus on will include middle school students. The ideographic analysis of this group will reveal the ‘sufficient’ cause of poor performance. On the other hand, a nomothetic analysis will allow the researcher to generalize the findings to other contexts.