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.

Key Differences

"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.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023
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.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023
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.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023
"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.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

Comparison Chart

Primary Definition

Connection between items.
Mutual relationship, especially between two variables.
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Sep 11, 2023

Scope

Specific and often quantitative.
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Sep 11, 2023

Usage Example

"There's an association between diet and health."
"There's a high correlation between smoking and lung cancer."
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Sep 11, 2023

Measurement

Not always measurable.
Measured with values between -1 and 1.
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Sep 11, 2023

Implies Causation

Does not imply causation.
Does not necessarily imply causation.
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Sep 11, 2023

Compare with Definitions

Association

Association refers to a connection or linkage.
There's an association between mood and weather.
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Sep 06, 2023

Correlation

Correlation measures the relationship between two variables.
There's a correlation between hours studied and exam scores.
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Sep 06, 2023

Association

Association can mean a group organized for a specific purpose.
She joined the Association of Writers.
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Correlation

Correlation refers to mutual change between variables.
As age goes up, the correlation with technology use decreases.
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Association

Association can denote a mental connection between concepts.
There's a strong association between roses and love.
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Correlation

Correlation can be positive, negative, or neutral.
There's a negative correlation between smoking and lung capacity.
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Association

Association implies a relationship without causation.
Despite the association, one does not cause the other.
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Correlation

Correlation is used in statistics and data analysis.
The correlation coefficient for these datasets is 0.8.
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Sep 06, 2023

Association

Association may refer to the co-occurrence of properties.
There's an association between this gene and the disease.
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Sep 06, 2023

Correlation

Correlation doesn't imply causation.
The correlation between ice cream sales and crime doesn't mean one causes the other.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 06, 2023

Association

The act of associating or being connected with
My parents disapproved of my association with my friends from across town.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

Correlation

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.
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

An organized body of people who have an interest, activity, or purpose in common; a society.
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Correlation

A relationship or connection between two things based on co-occurrence or pattern of change
A correlation between drug abuse and crime.
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Association

A mental connection or relation between thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations
My therapist helped me examine my association of food with comfort.
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Sep 14, 2021

Correlation

(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.
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

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).
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Correlation

An act of correlating or the condition of being correlated.
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Association

A correlation or causal connection
There is a definite association of exercise with improved health.
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Correlation

A reciprocal, parallel or complementary relationship between two or more comparable objects.
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

(Chemistry) Any of various processes of combination, such as hydration, solvation, or complex-ion formation, depending on relatively weak chemical bonding.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

Correlation

(statistics) One of the several measures of the linear statistical relationship between two random variables, indicating both the strength and direction of the relationship.
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Association

(Ecology) A large number of organisms in a specific geographic area constituting a community with one or two dominant species.
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Correlation

(algebra) An isomorphism from a projective space to the dual of a projective space, often to the dual of itself.
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Association

(uncountable) The act of associating.
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Sep 14, 2021

Correlation

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.
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Association

(countable) The state of being associated; a connection to or an affiliation with something.
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Sep 14, 2021

Correlation

A reciprocal relation between two or more things
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

(statistics) Any relationship between two measured quantities that renders them statistically dependent (but not necessarily causal or a correlation).
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

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?
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

A group of persons associated for a common purpose; an organization; society.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

Correlation

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
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

Association

(object-oriented programming) Relationship between classes of objects that allows one object instance to cause another to perform an action on its behalf.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

Association

A benevolent overseas Chinese organization of popular origin for overseas Chinese individuals with the same surname or trade or business.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 14, 2021

Association

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.
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Association

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?
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

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.
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Association

A formal organization of people or groups of people;
He joined the Modern Language Association
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Association

The act of consorting with or joining with others;
You cannot be convicted of criminal guilt by association
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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
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Association

A valuable financial affiliation
He was sorry he had to sever his ties with other members of the team
Many close associations with England
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Association

The process of bringing ideas or events together in memory or imagination;
Conditioning is a form of learning by association
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Sep 14, 2021

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
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

(chemistry) any process of combination (especially in solution) that depends on relatively weak chemical bonding
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Sep 14, 2021

Association

(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
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Sep 14, 2021

Common Curiosities

Can "Association" be used in business contexts?

Yes, like a trade association or a brand's association with quality.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

How is the strength of "Correlation" measured?

Using a correlation coefficient, ranging from -1 to 1.
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Sep 11, 2023

Can "Association" imply causation?

No, it simply denotes a relationship without suggesting causality.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

Do "Association" and "Correlation" mean the same thing?

No, while both refer to relationships, correlation is more specific and often quantitative.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

Typically, yes, especially in statistics and data analysis.
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Can you have an "Association" in psychology?

Yes, like associative learning where one event relates to another.
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Sep 11, 2023

Can "Association" relate to memory?

Yes, as in associative memory where one thought triggers another related thought.
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Sep 11, 2023

In what fields is "Correlation" prominently used?

Especially in statistics, finance, and scientific research.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

Why is it said "Correlation does not imply causation"?

Because two correlated variables might be influenced by a third factor or by coincidence.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

Does a strong "Correlation" mean one thing causes the other?

No, correlation does not imply causation.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

Yes, association has a broader and more general use.
Tayyaba Rehman
Sep 11, 2023

What does a zero "Correlation" mean?

It suggests there's little to no linear relationship between variables.
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Sep 11, 2023

Can "Correlation" be used outside of statistics?

While its primary use is statistical, it can describe any mutual relationship in general terms.
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Sep 11, 2023

Can two unrelated things have an "Association"?

Yes, two things can be associated without having a direct relationship.
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Sep 11, 2023

Can "Association" be innate or learned?

Both. Some associations are instinctual, while others are learned over time.
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Sep 11, 2023

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