Despite the notion that marijuana is a gateway drug, the world has a history of consuming marijuana until the mid-1930s. People believed that marijuana usage caused a bunch of socially-unacceptable side effects, but scientists disproved those beliefs in the 1940s. Instead, the US government focused on the prohibition of the drug, which resulted in a host of unintended consequences. The Nixon administration used the War on Drugs to target their political enemies.
The Simpsons — MoneyBART
The local little league team has a new coach, and she plans on using statistical analysis to improve their chances of winning. She tracks player tendencies and digs into the work of Bill James to bring a Moneyball approach to the Isotots. Bart laments that she has taken the fun out of the game, which begs the question of the team’s objective function. Are sports teams win-maximizers or should some teams focus on having fun?
At the end of the segment, Bart has a choice to make. Should he take the statistical approach to win the game or should he swing and try to preserve his hot streak. The hot hand fallacy is the belief that previous observations are correlated with upcoming observations. This fallacy leads us to believe batters “get hot” even though the probability of the next hit is independent of the previous ones.
Spongebob — World Domination
Plankton wants the secret recipe to the Krabby Patties and hires a hitman to help him. The problem? He tells the hitman that he wants a secret formula that will allow him to gain total world domination. Little does the hitman know that the Plankton believes the secret to world domination is total control over the fast food industry. While these may be correlated, it’s unlikely that total control over the fast food industry will cause Plankton to have total control over the world.
Thanks to Erin Yetter (and her kids) for the clip reference!
Life in Pieces — Death and Wills
John and Joan go to see Jen about getting a will done since they don’t have one already. Joan points out that she thought they were covered, but John is scared of wills since everyone he knows that has died has had a will. He seems to be mixing up correlation with causation.
Superstore — How to Cure an Ear Infection
Mateo has an ear infection and everyone in the store has a way of curing it. While some are more appropriate than others, each believes that their method will cause Mateo’s ear infection to be cured.
Brothers Osborne – It Ain’t My Fault
Introduce correlation vs causation using this music video from Brothers Osborne. In the story, the singer describes a bunch of events from a previous night of drinking, but reiterates that it wasn’t his fault. While his presence was correlated with a bunch of events, he insists he didn’t cause those events. He then goes on to list the causes of each event for the night:
Blame the whiskey on the beer
Blame the beer on the whiskey
Blame the mornin’ on the night
For whose lyin’ here with me
Blame the bar for the band
Blame the band for the song
Blame the song for the party that went all night long
But it ain’t my fault
For more country music videos that display economics, check out EconGoneCountry.
Freakonomics: Causation vs. Correlation
Bad historical assumptions about why things happen – after all, ice cream consumption was blamed for causing polio once upon a time.