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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

Pronunciation Usage Guide

Syllabification: spu·ri·ous re·la·tion·ship

Audio Pronunciation

– American English
– British English

Phonetic Spelling

  • American English – /spyUR-ee-uhs ri-lAY-shuhn-ship/
  • British English – /spyUUH-riuhs ri-lAY-shuhn-ship/

International Phonetic Alphabet

  • American English – /ˈspjʊriəs riˈleɪʃənˌʃɪp/
  • British English – /ˈspjʊərɪəs rɪˈleɪʃənʃɪp/

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 August 3, 2020 (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 August 3, 2020. 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. 3 Aug. 2020. <https://sociologydictionary.org/spurious-relationship/>.