Association vs. Correlation — What's the Difference?
By Tayyaba Rehman — Published on September 11, 2023
"Association" refers to a general connection or relationship between items, while "Correlation" specifies a mutual relationship between two variables often in a statistical context.
Difference Between Association and Correlation
Table of Contents
"Association" and "Correlation" are two terms that, at a glance, might seem synonymous, but they have distinct uses, especially in scientific and statistical contexts. Association broadly refers to any kind of linkage or connection between two entities or ideas. This linkage can be strong, weak, direct, or indirect, and doesn't always imply a cause-and-effect relationship. For example, an association might be made between healthy eating and well-being, but this doesn't mean one directly causes the other.
In contrast, "Correlation" is more specific and is often used within statistics to describe the relationship between two quantitative variables. It measures the strength and direction of a linear relationship, with values ranging from -1 to 1. A value close to 1 implies a strong positive correlation: as one variable increases, the other does too. A value close to -1 implies the opposite. If the value is close to 0, it suggests there's little to no relationship. This term doesn't necessarily mean causation; just because two variables are correlated doesn't mean one causes the other.
It's essential to recognize the breadth of "Association." The term can be employed in various fields, from psychology to business, and doesn't have the quantitative connotations that "Correlation" carries. For instance, an association in business could be a professional organization or a connection between brands and consumer feelings.
"Correlation," being more specialized, is predominantly used when dealing with data analysis. It's a metric that provides insights into how two datasets move in relation to one another. In finance, for instance, correlation might be used to see how two stocks move in relation to one another, but it's important to remember that correlation doesn't imply causation. Just because two stocks move together doesn't mean one's movement is causing the other's.
Connection between items.
Mutual relationship, especially between two variables.
Broad and qualitative.
Specific and often quantitative.
"There's an association between diet and health."
"There's a high correlation between smoking and lung cancer."
Not always measurable.
Measured with values between -1 and 1.
Does not imply causation.
Does not necessarily imply causation.
Compare with Definitions
Association refers to a connection or linkage.
There's an association between mood and weather.
Correlation measures the relationship between two variables.
There's a correlation between hours studied and exam scores.
Association can mean a group organized for a specific purpose.
She joined the Association of Writers.
Correlation refers to mutual change between variables.
As age goes up, the correlation with technology use decreases.
Association can denote a mental connection between concepts.
There's a strong association between roses and love.
Correlation can be positive, negative, or neutral.
There's a negative correlation between smoking and lung capacity.
Association implies a relationship without causation.
Despite the association, one does not cause the other.
Correlation is used in statistics and data analysis.
The correlation coefficient for these datasets is 0.8.
Association may refer to the co-occurrence of properties.
There's an association between this gene and the disease.
Correlation doesn't imply causation.
The correlation between ice cream sales and crime doesn't mean one causes the other.
The act of associating or being connected with
My parents disapproved of my association with my friends from across town.
In statistics, correlation or dependence is any statistical relationship, whether causal or not, between two random variables or bivariate data. In the broadest sense correlation is any statistical association, though it commonly refers to the degree to which a pair of variables are linearly related.
An organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common; a society.
A relationship or connection between two things based on co-occurrence or pattern of change
A correlation between drug abuse and crime.
A mental connection or relation between thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations
My therapist helped me examine my association of food with comfort.
(Statistics) The tendency for two values or variables to change together, in either the same or opposite way
As cigarette smoking increases, so does the incidence of lung cancer, indicating a positive correlation.
The act of expressing a link or connection between two things
"The media's association of visa overstayers with illegality is so strong and common as to shape public attitudes towards them" (Junya Morooka).
An act of correlating or the condition of being correlated.
A correlation or causal connection
There is a definite association of exercise with improved health.
A reciprocal, parallel or complementary relationship between two or more comparable objects.
(Chemistry) Any of various processes of combination, such as hydration, solvation, or complex-ion formation, depending on relatively weak chemical bonding.
(statistics) One of the several measures of the linear statistical relationship between two random variables, indicating both the strength and direction of the relationship.
(Ecology) A large number of organisms in a specific geographic area constituting a community with one or two dominant species.
(algebra) An isomorphism from a projective space to the dual of a projective space, often to the dual of itself.
(uncountable) The act of associating.
Reciprocal relation; corresponding similarity or parallelism of relation or law; capacity of being converted into, or of giving place to, one another, under certain conditions; as, the correlation of forces, or of zymotic diseases.
(countable) The state of being associated; a connection to or an affiliation with something.
A reciprocal relation between two or more things
(statistics) Any relationship between two measured quantities that renders them statistically dependent (but not necessarily causal or a correlation).
A statistic representing how closely two variables co-vary; it can vary from -1 (perfect negative correlation) through 0 (no correlation) to +1 (perfect positive correlation);
What is the correlation between those two variables?
A group of persons associated for a common purpose; an organization; society.
A statistical relation between two or more variables such that systematic changes in the value of one variable are accompanied by systematic changes in the other
(object-oriented programming) Relationship between classes of objects that allows one object instance to cause another to perform an action on its behalf.
A benevolent overseas Chinese organization of popular origin for overseas Chinese individuals with the same surname or trade or business.
The act of associating, or state of being associated; union; connection, whether of persons of things.
Self-denial is a kind of holy association with God.
Mental connection, or that which is mentally linked or associated with a thing.
Words . . . must owe their powers association.
Why should . . . the holiest words, with all their venerable associations, be profaned?
Union of persons in a company or society for some particular purpose; as, the American Association for the Advancement of Science; a benevolent association. Specifically, as among the Congregationalists, a society, consisting of a number of ministers, generally the pastors of neighboring churches, united for promoting the interests of religion and the harmony of the churches.
A formal organization of people or groups of people;
He joined the Modern Language Association
The act of consorting with or joining with others;
You cannot be convicted of criminal guilt by association
The state of being connected together as in memory or imagination;
His association of his father with being beaten was too strong to break
A social or business relationship;
A valuable financial affiliation
He was sorry he had to sever his ties with other members of the team
Many close associations with England
The process of bringing ideas or events together in memory or imagination;
Conditioning is a form of learning by association
A relation resulting from interaction or dependence;
Flints were found in association with the prehistoric remains of the bear
The host is not always injured by association with a parasite
(chemistry) any process of combination (especially in solution) that depends on relatively weak chemical bonding
(ecology) a group of organisms (plants and animals) that live together in a certain geographical region and constitute a community with a few dominant species
Can "Association" be used in business contexts?
Yes, like a trade association or a brand's association with quality.
How is the strength of "Correlation" measured?
Using a correlation coefficient, ranging from -1 to 1.
Can "Association" imply causation?
No, it simply denotes a relationship without suggesting causality.
Do "Association" and "Correlation" mean the same thing?
No, while both refer to relationships, correlation is more specific and often quantitative.
Is "Correlation" always about numbers?
Typically, yes, especially in statistics and data analysis.
Can you have an "Association" in psychology?
Yes, like associative learning where one event relates to another.
Can "Association" relate to memory?
Yes, as in associative memory where one thought triggers another related thought.
In what fields is "Correlation" prominently used?
Especially in statistics, finance, and scientific research.
Why is it said "Correlation does not imply causation"?
Because two correlated variables might be influenced by a third factor or by coincidence.
Does a strong "Correlation" mean one thing causes the other?
No, correlation does not imply causation.
Is "Association" broader than "Correlation"?
Yes, association has a broader and more general use.
What does a zero "Correlation" mean?
It suggests there's little to no linear relationship between variables.
Can "Correlation" be used outside of statistics?
While its primary use is statistical, it can describe any mutual relationship in general terms.
Can two unrelated things have an "Association"?
Yes, two things can be associated without having a direct relationship.
Can "Association" be innate or learned?
Both. Some associations are instinctual, while others are learned over time.
Share Your Discovery
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to askdifference.com. As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.