NPR

The Subtleties In Causation Talk

Randomized controlled trials are a gold standard for good reason, but the notion of causation established here departs from the way we often use causal language, says blogger Tania Lombrozo.
Source: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The gold standard for establishing a causal relationship — between, say, a drug and some health outcome — is a randomized controlled trial, or RCT.

RCTs are powerful for a few reasons.

First, RCTs involve an experimental manipulation of the causal factor of interest. Rather than merely observing a correlation between, say, chocolate consumption and levels of happiness in a large and diverse population, an RCT involves an on people's consumption of chocolate: People in one group are assigned to eat chocolate; people in another group are assigned to abstain. This ensures that if

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