What is Illusory Correlation (Definition) & Illusory Correlation Example
What is Illusory Correlation?
“Illusory correlation” is a term used in psychology to describe a situation where people have the perception that two events are correlated, when in fact, they are not. A false or spurious relationship between two variables is called an illusory correlation. It results from a misinterpretation of the correlational pattern.
An example of illusory correlation would be thinking that having ‘good handwriting’ means you will write better essays or make better grades overall.
Hamilton and Gifford Illusory Correlation Study Experiment
Illusory Correlation Stereotypes /Psychology
Initially, Illusory correlation was introduced by Chapman and Chapman (1967) to explain people’s tendency to overestimate relationships between two groups when distinctive and uncommon information is introduced.
The definition was used to challenge assumptions regarding objective experience in clinical psychology by Chapman’s refutation of the commonly used Wheeler signs of homosexuality in Rorschach tests.
David Hamilton and Robert Gifford performed a series of studies in 1976 that showed how stereotypic assumptions about minorities could be derived from illusory correlation processes.
Participants read a series of sentences explaining either desirable or undesirable behavior, which were then assigned to members of two separate groups: locals and immigrants.
While these traits were actually correlated with both of these classes, the participants overestimated the correlation between negative behaviors and the minority community (i.e., immigrants). This demonstrated the importance of illusory correlation in stereotyping.
Illusory Correlation Example 1
Illusory correlation is a phenomenon in which people falsely believe that two unrelated events are causally related.
Examples of illusory correlation include believing that wearing a pair of glasses makes you more intelligent or thinking that eating ice cream causes the weather to be warmer. The illusion can also occur when one event follows another, and we mistakenly assume they are connected.
Illusory Correlation Example 2
Illusory correlation is the tendency to see a relationship between two events or phenomena where none exists.
For example, people often falsely associate an increase in ice cream sales with an increase in shark attacks. The false association is due to the fact that both events are salient, and one event (ice cream) happens more frequently than the other (shark attack).
Superstitions and biases are widespread all over the world. Illusory correlation may also be linked to prejudice. People come up with the belief that other people do these things because of their race when it is totally untrue in most situations.
People are still trying to find the causes and explanations for incidents and people. So they’re creating explanations that aren’t valid, but they’re giving them the excuse they want.
It creates illusions as to why certain events happen and can help fulfill people’s desires for why a certain outcome happens. Illusory correlation gives people satisfaction as to why things happen.
Example: A man believes that people in urban areas tend to be rude. Therefore, when he encounters someone who is rude, he assumes that the person lives in a town rather than a rural area.
Other Examples of illusory correlation
Other real-life examples of illusory correlation include;
- A child believes that all teachers are good, so she immediately trusts her when she sees a teacher.
- A woman has her purse stolen from a particular demographic male. In the future, every time she sees a person of that demographic, she holds her tight bag.
- A woman spills coffee on herself after visiting a particular coffee shop. Later, she refuses to go there, fearful of pouring coffee on herself again.
- A student fails an exam given on a Monday, so he determines that he is unlucky and unable to pass a test if it is administered on future Mondays.
- A girl wins money on a scratch-off ticket when she uses a particular coin, so she scratches all her tickets with that coin, thinking it’s the reason for her win.