Sociology Index

SPURIOUSNESS

Spuriousness is the incorrect inference of a causal relationship between two variables where the relationship is in reality only accidental. A more serious concern is whether the observed relationship is spurious. Despite some statistical attempts to control for clear sources of spuriousness, there are potentially an infinite number of variables that are unaccounted for. Researchers attempt to identify or eliminate spuriousness by the use of random assignment in an experimental design or through the use of control variables in the manipulation of data during analysis. spuriousness, refers to a connection between two variables that appears causal but is not.

Spurious relationships often have the appearance of one variable affecting another. Spurious relationships can often be identified by controlling for other factors, including those that have been theoretically identified as possible confounding factors. The school disciplinary environment is important both directly, because it is a possible source of spuriousness in the relationship between race and school discipline, and indirectly, because it serves as the context for understanding any observed racial disparity.

When trying to reproduce results in robotics papers, it is often unclear if failure to duplicate results is due to incorrect verification, missing information or spuriousness of original results. Farah Mendlesohn's examination foregrounds a trend from the outward bound emphasis of career books during the 1950s and 1960s with their emphasis on mentoring and authority, during which stories increasingly focused on demonstrating the failure and spuriousness of that adult authority.

Suppose that being closer to the action also gives people certain advantages in knowing the social network. Then one could argue that the observed relationship between reputational power and network knowledge is spurious. I have controlled for what I argued to be the most reasonable sources of spuriousness. But, clearly, one cannot conclude that all sources of spuriousness have been eliminated. - Extract from: Assessing the political landscape: structure, cognition, and power in organizations - Administrative Science Quarterly, June, 1990 by David Krackhardt. 

Conceptual Meaning and Spuriousness in Ratio Correlations: The Case of Restaurant Tipping. Michael Lynn, Charles F. Bond, Jr.
Abstract: Ratios of one variable over another are frequently used in social psychological research in order to control for a linear relationship between the numerator and the denominator. However, the use of ratio variables can introduce spuriousness into data analyses. This article provides a description and explanation of the problem of spuriousness in ratio correlations and it illustrates this problem with research on restaurant tipping.