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Episode 453: What Causes What?

Public policy professor Charles Wheelan's book.
W.W. Norton
Public policy professor Charles Wheelan's book.

This episode originally ran in April 2013.

What causes what? The human brain is programmed to answer this question constantly, and using a very basic method. This is how we survive. What made that noise? A bear made that noise. What caused my hand to hurt? Fire caused my hand to hurt.

But sometimes, we use these simple tools to solve complex problems. And so we get things wrong. I wore my lucky hat to the game. My team won. Therefore, my lucky hat caused my team to win.

On today's show we dive deep into correlation and causation with Charles Wheelan, author of the book, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data.

Read more:

Using Terror Alert Levels To Estimate The Effect Of Police On Crime

Estimating The Payoff To Attending A More Selective College

Music: "Rolling Hard," "Heading Downtown" and "Club Soda."

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Robert Smith is a host for NPR's Planet Money where he tells stories about how the global economy is affecting our lives.
Jacob Goldstein is an NPR correspondent and co-host of the Planet Money podcast. He is the author of the book Money: The True Story of a Made-Up Thing.