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Causal Relationships

Studying causal relationships is a big part of observation. For instance, when studying how an animal grows up, a researcher will study what causes it to hunt certain types of food, what causes it to rest and hibernate, what causes it to mate, and so on. Causal relationships also play a huge part in argumentation, because the causes of observations are often debatable.

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Causal Relationships

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Studying causal relationships is a big part of observation. For instance, when studying how an animal grows up, a researcher will study what causes it to hunt certain types of food, what causes it to rest and hibernate, what causes it to mate, and so on. Causal relationships also play a huge part in argumentation, because the causes of observations are often debatable.

Causal Relationship Meaning

A causal relationship is a cause-and-effect relationship where one event or variable directly results in the occurrence of another event or change in another variable. In other words, it's a connection between two things where one is the result of the other. It's important to note that correlation does not imply causation, meaning that just because two things occur together, it doesn't mean that one caused the other. Causal relationships are often studied in various fields, including sociology, psychology, physics, biology, economics, and more, to understand the dynamics of different phenomena.

Causal relationships have two basic features: a cause and an effect.

A cause is the reason that something happens.

An effect is something happening.

You might notice how tightly linked these two ideas are. Without the other, neither could be observed. Here’s an example. Your finger causes a ball to roll. Without your finger, the ball does not roll. At the same time, without the ball rolling, you did not cause anything with your finger.

Causal Relationship ball example StudySmarterFig. 1 - Causal relationships often show cause and effect.

Although cause and effect are interdependent, we often look at causation in terms of a line. This is helpful for exploring causal relationships in terms of argumentation.

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.

In the body of your essay, you can use causal relationships as evidence to prove your thesis.

Causal Relationship Synonyms

A causal relationship is a relationship of cause and effect.

A line of reasoning uses causal relationships to draw a conclusion.

By exploring causal relationships, you can study the difference between fact and opinion.

Examples of Causal Relationships

Here are a few examples of the cause-and-effect connections between two or more variables or events:

  1. Health: Regular exercise leads to an improvement in physical health. Here, regular exercise is the cause and improved physical health is the effect.

  2. Education: Increased study hours often lead to improved academic performance. In this case, increased study hours is the cause and improved academic performance is the effect.

  3. Economics: A rise in consumer confidence often leads to an increase in spending in the economy. Here, the rise in consumer confidence is the cause and the increase in spending is the effect.

  4. Environment: Excessive carbon emissions lead to global warming. Excessive carbon emissions are the cause and global warming is the effect.

Types of Causal Relationships

The four types of causal relationships are causal chains, causal homeostasis, common-cause relationships, and common-effect realtionships.

Causal Chains

These are simple A ➜ B ➜ C relationships.

A causal chain relationship is when one thing leads to another thing, which leads to another thing, and so on.

For example, let’s say that someone is depressed. For them, depression leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to not getting work done.

A causal chain is just one way of looking at this situation. The situation can also be represented in other ways.

Causal Homeostasis

These are cycles. A ➜ B ➜ C ➜ A.

Causal homeostasis is when something supports its own proliferation.

Let’s return to the depressed person. For them, depression leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to not getting work done, which leads to more depression.

Depending on your focus, you can frame causal relationships in different ways. If you are trying to describe the slippery slope of depression, you can frame it in terms of a chain: how it gets worse and worse and leads to increasingly dire outcomes. However, in order to describe the spiral of depression, you can frame it in terms of causal homeostasis: how depression leads to worsening depression.

Common-Cause Relationships

These are A ➜ B and C relationships.

A common-cause relationship is when one thing leads to multiple things.

Take again the person suffering from depression. You could frame their depression using the common-cause relationship as well. In this model, depression leads to a lack of motivation AND a lack of appetite.

This relationship is excellent at describing the symptoms of a cause.

Causal Relationship symptom example StudySmarter

Fig. 2 - Symptoms show a common-cause relationship.

Common-Effect Relationships

These are A and B ➜ C relationships.

A common-effect relationship is when multiple things lead to one thing.

For example, losing a job AND breaking up with someone might lead to depression.

This relationship is great at identifying the many reasons why something happens.

Causal Relationships in Your Essay

When exploring causal relationships in your essay, don’t try to define absolute relationships. As you can see from the examples explored above, you can approach a topic (e.g. depression) in many ways using many models. Instead, use the model of causal relationship that best suits your argument.

If this doesn’t quite make sense yet, that’s okay. It will.

Start with your thesis. Say that this is your thesis:

Gabriel García Márquez uses surrealist elements in a way that illuminates personal and uniquely Colombian insecurities about the past and the future. That said, Márquez breaks the boundaries of language and culture because his unique stories are like fairytales—uncomfortable fantasies that strike a chord at the level of the uncanny, where "who and where" matters far less than "how it feels."

Alright, great. Now let’s say that you want to find evidence to support the underlined portion of this thesis. You’ll need evidence for the whole thesis, of course, but first, narrow it down to the underlined portion for this example.

What kind of relationship would help support this conclusion?

Start with the evidence needed to arrive at the conclusion.

This part of the thesis requires specific examples from Márquez’s work that are emblematic of the fairytale genre. To satisfy this, it would be great to find single passages that hit all the bullet points of our thesis' definition of a fairytale. Which one of the causal relationship models would be useful here?

It sounds like the common-cause model would be useful. Here’s how that would work.

Passage 1 is uncanny AND passage 1 has a moody atmosphere AND passage 1 has an unclear setting and time period. This leads us to the conclusion that Passage 1 is like a fairytale.

Multiple aspects of passage 1 cause it to be emblematic of the fairytale genre.

From there, you could use the model again to support your thesis more completely.

Passage 1 is like a fairytale AND passage 2 is like a fairytale AND passage 3 is like a fairytale. This leads us to the conclusion that the work as a whole is like a fairytale.

Multiple passages in a book make the book emblematic of a fairytale.

This is just one way to approach this thesis. When using causal relationships to support your own thesis, be creative. Use as many causal relationships as are applicable, and explore them from different angles. Think of it like building a web. The tighter your ideas link together from end to end and side to side, the harder your conclusions will be to counter. Fifty links are stronger than one!

Causal Relationships - Key Takeaways

  • In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.
  • A causal chain relationship is when one thing leads to another thing, which leads another thing, and so on.
  • Causal homeostasis is when something supports its own proliferation.
  • A common-cause relationship is when one thing leads to multiple things.
  • A common-effect relationship is when multiple things lead to one thing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Causal Relationships

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.

Depression leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to not getting work done. This is also an example of a causal chain.

Causal chains, causal homeostasis, common-cause relationships, and common-effect relationships.

Causal relationships are rhetorical models, yes. 

Test your knowledge with multiple choice flashcards

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause _____ effect.

In terms of an essay, causal relationships can be used as evidence in your _____ to prove your _____.

A cause is the reason that _____.

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