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spurious relationship

Definition of Spurious Relationship

(noun) In statistical analysis, a false correlation between two variables that is caused by a third variable.

Example of Spurious Relationship

  • The oft-repeated example of a spurious relationship is when ice cream sales increase so do drownings. However, ice cream does not have a direct relationship to drownings, but instead warmer weather drives increased ice cream sales and the amount of people who go swimming, thus increasing the number of people drowning.

Spurious Relationship Pronunciation

  • IPA Pronunciation
    • American English
      • /ˈsp(j)ʊriəs rəˈleɪʃənˌʃɪp/
      • /ˈsp(j)ʊriəs riˈleɪʃənˌʃɪp/
      • /ˈspjuriəs rəˈleɪʃənˌʃɪp/
      • /ˈspjuriəs riˈleɪʃənˌʃɪp/
    • British English
      • /ˈspjʊərɪəs rᵻˈleɪʃnʃɪp/
      • /ˈspjɔːrɪəs rᵻˈleɪʃnʃɪp/
  • Syllabification: (spu·ri·ous re·la·tion·ship)

Usage Notes

  • Plural: spurious relationships
  • A third variable that causes a spurious correlation is called a confounding variable or lurking variable.
  • An unidentified spurious relationship can undermine the internal validity of research.
  • Also called:
    • illusory correlation
    • spurious relation
    • spuriousness

Additional Information

Related Terms

Contributor: C. E. Seaman


Works Consulted

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Cite the Definition of Spurious Relationship

ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)

Seaman, C. E. 2013. “spurious relationship.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary, edited by Kenton Bell. Retrieved September 21, 2019 (https://sociologydictionary.org/spurious-relationship/).

APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)

Seaman, C. E. (2013). spurious relationship. In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/spurious-relationship/

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

Seaman, C. E. 2013. “spurious relationship.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary, edited by Kenton Bell. Accessed September 21, 2019. https://sociologydictionary.org/spurious-relationship/.

MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)

Seaman, C. E. “spurious relationship.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 21 Sep. 2019. <https://sociologydictionary.org/spurious-relationship/>.