Thursday, September 6, 2007

Jeans are Responsible for What?

Yesterday evening, Shawna and I heard a very strange news blip on the radio. It wasn't on a news station-it was some disc jockey talking in between songs, so it wasn't explained in depth, but the point was that scientists have statistically shown that white-collar workers who wear jeans to work, over the long-term, have better eyesight.

The jockey went on to explain that there was also a strong correlation between jeans in the workplace and employer satisfaction and decreased incidence of heart disease.

Here's their reasoning: jean-wearers have a tendency to get up from the desk more often over the course of a typical workday. This gives their eyes numerous short breaks throughout the day (from staring at a computer monitor), which is enough to keep the eyes from going bad.

Jean wearers, according to the research, since they get up more often, have a tendency to stop by their employers office more often, thus, over time, becoming better acquainted with him, leading to increased satisfaction.

Finally, as jean wearers tend to get up more often, they get more physical exercise while in the office, leading to cleaner arteries, and a lesser chance of heart failure.

To some degree, these are plausible explanations. But, in all cases, I think that they're a classic example of the latin fallacy in reasoning: Post hoc ergo propter hoc. What does that mean? Precisely translated, it means "After this, therefore because of this." Translated into real English, it means, "A happened after B happened, so B must have caused A."

This is a dangerous line of reasoning, although particularly effective-especially for politicians. Let me give you a real-life example, just so you have some perspective.

Imagine with me, for a moment, that I place a post on this blog, and within 2 hours of placing that post, my site count doubles, on an hour by hour basis. It would be a stretch, I think, to assume that, because I just posted, and within two hours, twice as many people are visiting per hour as has been the norm all day long, that my readers must have esp, correct? At this point, there's little correlation-in fact, there's no more than mere coincidence.

But say, hypothetically, that, as an experiment, I mapped out the hour by hour visits, and every evening, at the same time, I posted to this blog. And I tracked the visits, and every evening, almost without fail, in the two hours following the post, the number of visits per hour doubled. Would it then be safer to say that my readers must have esp? Perhaps safer, but it's still a very dangerous assumption.

The truth of the matter is, the simple fact that after I posted, hits went up does not mean that hits went up because I posted. We might ASSUME that-but there's just as much potential-specifically in this case-for that to be untrue as it is to be true.

It's entirely possible-indeed plausible-that the correlation here is no more than coincidence. It could be that most of my readers are employed is a similar capacity to mine-which means they probably get home around the same time I do, go to sleep within a few hours of when I do...which means they're probably going to be reading the blog around the same time that I'm posting to it!

The point here is that correlation does not point to causality! The economy improved a few weeks into G. W. Bush's term as President; is he the causal factor? Unlikely! Yet many politicians would use the old Post hoc ergo propter hoc in this case, to take credit.

Back, though, to the original point. In my mind, these scientific "proofs" are highly suspicious.

Allow me, if I might, to present to you a few equally plausible alternatives (at least in my mind).

Is it possible that individuals who wear jeans to work (in an office environment) are, in general, more laid back by nature? Given that, they're probably not going to feel as pressured by time lines, and will be more likely to spend more time walking around, talking to cohorts, instead of pushing to complete their work. This, of course, would have the same net effect on the employee's eyesight as alluded to above.

Further, it's entirely plausible that bosses in these type of companies are well-liked, simply because their leadership style, their management philosophy (as evidenced by their willingness to allow jeans in the workplace), is very free-very open. Freedom tends to satisfy people enormously.

Finally, though, we have the reduced incidence of heart disease. There are a couple of thoughts here. The first is, could it simply be, again, that the employee is more laid back? Isn't there a strong correlation between stress levels and heart disease? I think so. Further, jean-wearers are typically more "active" folks outside the office. Meaning that they have a great deal of physical activity. So, the wearing of jeans to work doesn't necessarily contribute to the reduced risk, but the fact that they are physical people, as evidenced by their rugged wardrobe at work, leads to decreased risk of heart disease.

My point is this: correlation has nothing to do with causality. Listen with a cautious ear to news reports ascribing a particular event to a specific cause, simply because there was some sort of correlation. Ask yourself, what ELSE might have led to this?

And for God's sake, please do not allow yourself to be conned into thinking that simply wearing jeans to work will make you a happier, healthier individual (and give you a better chance for a raise).

And, oh, one other thing that I've been meaning to tell you: since MyndFood came online, gas prices, nation-wide have, on the average, dropped by about .30 cents per gallon. Thus, I, PJ, the humble writer of MyndFood, am, apparently, responsible, for your saving astounding sums of money on gasoline!

Perhaps, to express your undying gratitude, you might want to head on over to my Amazon Wish List, pick out a book, and send it to me!


Anonymous said...

Once again...people turn things around to fit what they believe or what they want everyone else to believe - anything that will benefit themselves in the process. It's sad, but true!

SheGazelle said...

Did you know marriage causes lactose intolerance? True: Neither I, nor hegazelle had trouble digesting dairy prior to marriage, and now we are both lacking the enzyme that breaks down lactose.
So single people should consider while dating someone whether they love them more than ice cream.

Katie Booker said...

And Marriage causes Obesity also! So you must consider if you are willing to be fat and in love or skinny and lonely =) lol
Or at least...Thats My Story And I'm Stickin To It =)

Anonymous said...

Touche' Shegazelle!

Anonymous said...

Touche' Shegazelle!

Anonymous said...

i can shoot both your things down. :) I'm single and lactose intolerant i take digestive advantage everyday. and am lonely and fat of course i've lost 90lbs. since last year. maybe i'm just the exception. :)