Data on Dogs Says Best ≠ Favorite (Correlation vs. Causation)
Everyone is familiar with the “bandwagon effect”, where fans and followers join and root for the winning team, popular group, or must-have item. Does this psychological phenomenon apply to everything? A common misconception is that people assume correlation equals causation.
Let’s look at this phenomenon using Arc Aspicio’s favorite furry friend, the canine. Each year, one of Arc Aspicio’s major community contributions is its annual fundraiser event for the Search Dog Foundation, raising awareness for and funds to sponsor Search Dog Teams.
The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show has awarded a Best in Show every year since 1907*. The clear overall winner – the terrier breed group. 42% of the time – or 46 out of 109 years – the terrier was the top dog, especially in the earlier years of the award show. Even in the last 25 years, the terrier breed has won 32% of the time, the most of any breed. Common opinion may suggest, then, that America’s favorite dogs come from the terrier breed, per the “bandwagon effect” phenomenon.
The terrier was America’s favorite breed from 1907 until 1924, but, for no reason in particular, it has not been considered the public’s favorite since. Since 1982, the sporting breed has been America’s favorite. In that time, the sporting breed has only taken Best in Show eight times (about 23%), while the terrier has continued winning the most, nine times, or 26% since 1982. Why is this the case?
As with most data analysis, there are many factors in play. A common mistake in data analysis is the confusion between correlation and causation. Two events may appear related, but that does not mean that one is happening because of the other. Here, the Best in Show and America’s favorite may relate, but that does not mean that the Best in Show is causing America’s favorite to be the same breed or vice versa. The same goes for the “bandwagon effect”: correlation does not necessarily mean causation.
As for America’s decision on a favorite dog? Since 1991, that has been the Labrador retriever, yet it has never won Best in Show.
*No winner was awarded in 1923
About Arc Aspicio
Arc Aspicio is a management, strategy, and technology consulting firm that takes a mission-oriented approach to complex client challenges. As a rapidly growing company, Arc Aspicio has a bold strategy for 2016-2018 that drives growth through new capabilities in strategy, design, human capital, data analytics, information sharing, cybersecurity, and strategic communications. The company is known for a strong, collaborative culture that values gratitude – for its clients and its great team. And, #welovedogs! Follow us on Twitter @arcaspicio or learn more at www.arcaspicio.com.