You know that thing about how rising ice cream sales are linked to more frequent shark attacks? Correlation does not mean causation, right? People love jumping to ridiculous conclusions about data found in studies of all kinds, but things tend to get blown even further out of proportion when it comes to sex studies. Here is a hilarious list of some of the most sensationalized sex headlines from the past few years from Dr. Justin J. Lehmiller’s blog.
10. Housework Cuts Breast Cancer Risk – Based upon the title, you’d think that the only thing a woman needs to stave off breast cancer is a mop and bucket, right? This is a prime example of how people frequently confuse correlation with causation. Just because two variables are statistically associated does not mean that one is causing the other! It’s possible that the association isn’t meaningful at all or is explained by something else entirely (e.g., perhaps women who do more housework are just generally in better physical shape and that’s what actually accounts for the lower cancer risk).
4. Crying Over Spilled Semen: Why Women Who Don’t Use Condoms Feel Happier– Between these last two headlines, readers may be left with the impression that any form of contraception is a real mood killer! This particular article talks about how women who have unprotected sex are happier because they have become “chemically dependent” on the mood-elevating properties of semen (no joke). But isn’t it possible that women who fail to use condoms (and are thereby exposed to more semen) may be different in some way or have different types of relationships, and perhaps that’s what explains the mood differences?
2. Breast Implants Lower Cancer Risk But Boost Suicides – Again, correlation is not causation. Perhaps breast implants don’t “boost” suicides—maybe it’s that people who are more inclined to commit suicide in the first place (e.g., people who are depressed) are more likely to get breast implants.
The article is a little bit old; what are some recent ones you’ve enjoyed?