Critical thinking on Causality and Ethics

The following accounts imply causal relationships from non-experimental data. For each study think of an explanation for the results other than the one suggested in the headline (i.e., the reverse causality and third variable problems) and try to think of ways to experimentally test the implied causal relationships. Also, think of ethical concerns related to the experimental tests) you come up with.

(1) LIVING TOGETHER LEADS TO DIVORCE:Don’t live together if you want to stay married. So says a nationwide study of over 2000 couples. The study found that couples that had lived together before getting married were 2.3 times as likely to get divorced as couples who had not lived together. Does living together before marriage lead to divorce?How else can this finding be explained?; How would you experimentally test the hypothesis that living together causes divorce?;Think of ethical concerns related to the experimental test(s) you come up with.

(2) COFFEE PERKS UP SEX :If you want to perk up your sex life, drink more coffee. That’s the suggestion of a study published recently in a leading health journal. Researchers found that couples that regularly drank coffee reported nearly three times as much sexual activity as couples who did not drink coffee. Coffee sales are expected to increase.Does drinking coffee increase sex drive?How else can the findings be explained?; How would you experimentally test the hypothesis that drinking coffee causes an increase in sex drive?;Think of ethical concerns related to the experimental test(s) you come up with.

(3) SMALL COLLEGES DRIVE STUDENTS TO DRINK: Parents around the country are withdrawing their children from small colleges. Their action comes after a release of a survey last week that found that students attending small colleges (less than 2000 students) consumed an average of 7.2 alcoholic beverages a week. By comparison, those attending large schools (more than 20, 000 students) consumed an average of 4.5 alcoholic drinks. Parents speculated that the pressures of the small college environment were pushing their children to drink. Does attending a small college cause students to drink?How else can this finding be explained?; How would you experimentally test the hypothesis that attending small colleges causes students to drink?;Think of ethical concerns related to the experimental test(s) you come up with.

(4) BAGPIPES GIVE YOU MORE THAN AN EARACHE: A survey has found that having a passion for the pipes is linked to alcoholism and can contribute to the breakdown of players marriages. About 10% of players said their hobby had ended their marriages while 84% knew pipers who were alcoholics.Does playing the bagpipes cause players marriages to breakdown and cause them to become alcoholics?How else can the finding be explained? How would you experimentally test the hypotheses that playing the bagpipes causes marriage breakdown and alcoholism?Think of ethical concerns related to the experimental test(s) you come up with.

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