1. (*noun*) In statistical analysis, a broad term describing how a change in one variable is associated with a similar pattern of variation in another variable across cases in a dataset.

2. (*noun*) A standardized indicator of covariance.

**Examples:**

**Audio Pronunciation: **(cor·re·la·tion)

**Download Audio Pronunciation:** correlation.mp3

**Usage Notes:**

- Plural:
**correlations** - A correlation can be positive or negative. When variables move in the same direction, they are positively correlated, and when an increase in one variable causes a decrease in another variable, they are negatively correlated.
- Perfect correlation is unlikely in the social sciences.
- Correlation does not always equal causation. Inappropriate inference of causality is referred to as a spurious relationship (not to be confused with spurious correlation). Correlation only reveals a relationship between variables but not the context; the presence of a third factor that accounts for the association between variables is a confounding variable. Researchers must employ a rigorous methodology in order to adequately infer the nature and direction of correlated variables. For example, the positive correlation between hat sales and ice cream sales is likely not because the wearing of hats promotes a craving for ice cream, or vice versa, but because of a third, confounding variable: hot weather.
- Correlation between two variables is measured statistically by a correlation coefficient (coefficient of association). There are different tests of correlation depending on the type of data and the characteristic of relationship being examined. A common test is the Pearson product-movement correlation (commonly referred to as Pearson correlation,
*r*) which tests for linear correlation between two variables where data approximates interval level characteristics. When data does not meet the assumptions for the Pearson correlation test, nonparametric tests for rank correlation may be applied. **Correlational analysis**typically occurs on interval level data.- Also called
**correlativity**. - When two variables (
*verb*)**correlate**they are (*adverb*)**correlationally**or (*adverb*)**correlatively**connected and (*adjective*)**correlational**or (*adjective*)**correlative**and (*adjective*)**correlational****analysis**determines the strength of two variables using (*noun*)**correlational statistics**.

**Additional Information:**

- Quantitative Research Resources – Books, Journals, and Helpful Links
- Word origin of “correlation” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com

**Related Terms:**

- attribute
- cohort
- control group
- data
- demography
- dependent variable
- descriptive statistics
- negative correlation
- positive correlation
- random sample
- reliability
- spurious correlation
- statistics

**Contributor:** C. E. Seaman

**Works Consulted**

Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. *Sociology: The Essentials*. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Babbie, Earl. 2013. *The Practice of Social Research*. 13th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. *Essentials of Sociology*. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. 2007. *Sociology: Your Compass for a New World*. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Bryman, Alan. 2012. *Social Research Methods*. 4th ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Burdess, Neil. 2010. *Starting Statistics: A Short, Clear Guide*. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Cramer, Duncan, and Dennis Howitt. 2004. *The SAGE Dictionary of Statistics: A Practical Resource for Students in the Social Sciences*. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Farlex. (N.d.) *TheFreeDictionary.com: Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus*. Farlex. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/).

Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. *The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology*. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.

Fioramonti, Lorenzo. 2014. *How Numbers Rule the World: The Use and Abuse of Statistics in Global Politics*. London: Zed Books.

Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. *Introduction to Sociology 2e*. Houston, TX: OpenStax.

Henslin, James M. 2012. *Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach*. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. *Sociology: The Core*. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Kendall, Diane. 2011. *Sociology in Our Times*. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. *Sociology Now*. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Kornblum, William. 2008. *Sociology in a Changing World*. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Larson, Ron, and Elizabeth Farber. 2015. *Elementary Statistics: Picturing the World*. 6th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Macionis, John. 2012. *Sociology*. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.

Macionis, John, and Kenneth Plummer. 2012. *Sociology: A Global Introduction*. 4th ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.

Oxford University Press. (N.d.)* Oxford Dictionaries*. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).

Ravelli, Bruce, and Michelle Webber. 2016. *Exploring Sociology: A Canadian Perspective*. 3rd ed. Toronto: Pearson.

Salkind, Neil J., ed. 2007. *Encyclopedia of Measurement and Statistics*. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

Schaefer, Richard. 2013. *Sociology: A Brief Introduction*. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.

Shepard, Jon M. 2010. *Sociology*. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. *Sociology and You*. New York: Glencoe.

Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. *The Basics of Sociology*. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) *Routledge Handbooks Online*. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).

Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. *Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology*. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Weinstein, Jay A. 2010. *Applying Social Statistics: An Introduction to Quantitative Reasoning in Sociology*. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.

Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.)* Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia*. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).

**How to Cite the Definition of Correlation**

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Seaman, C. E. 2015. “correlation.” In *Open Education Sociology Dictionary*, edited by Kenton Bell. Retrieved December 16, 2018 (https://sociologydictionary.org/correlation/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

Seaman, C. E. (2015). correlation. In K. Bell (Ed.), *Open education sociology dictionary*. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/correlation/

#### Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)

Seaman, C. E. 2015. “correlation.” In* Open Education Sociology Dictionary*, edited by Kenton Bell. Accessed December 16, 2018. https://sociologydictionary.org/correlation/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

Seaman, C. E. “correlation.” *Open Education Sociology Dictionary*. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2015. Web. 16 Dec. 2018. <https://sociologydictionary.org/correlation/>.