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Causal Relationships

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Causal Relationships

Studying causal relationships is a big part of observation. For instance, when studying how an animal grows up, a researcher will study what causes it to hunt certain types of food, what causes it to rest and hibernate, what causes it to mate, and so on. Causal relationships also play a huge part in argumentation, because the causes of observations are often debatable.

Causal Relationship Meaning

Causal relationships have two basic features: a cause and an effect.

A cause is the reason that something happens.

An effect is something happening.

You might notice how tightly linked these two ideas are. Without the other, neither could be observed. Here’s an example. Your finger causes a ball to roll. Without your finger, the ball does not roll. At the same time, without the ball rolling, you did not cause anything with your finger.

Causal Relationship ball example StudySmarterFig. 1 - Roll me to show cause and effect.

Although cause and effect are interdependent, we often look at causation in terms of a line. This is helpful for exploring causal relationships in terms of argumentation.

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.

In the body of your essay, you can use causal relationships as evidence to prove your thesis.

Causal Relationship Synonyms

A causal relationship is a relationship of cause and effect.

A line of reasoning uses causal relationships to draw a conclusion.

By exploring causal relationships, you can study the difference between fact and opinion.

Types of Causal Relationships With Examples

Here are the four types of causal relationships as well as causal relationship examples.

Causal Chains

These are simple A ➜ B ➜ C relationships.

A causal chain relationship is when one thing leads to another thing, which leads to another thing, and so on.

For example, let’s say that someone is depressed. For them, depression leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to not getting work done.

A causal chain is just one way of looking at this situation. The situation can also be represented in other ways.

Causal Homeostasis

These are cycles. A ➜ B ➜ C ➜ A.

Causal homeostasis is when something supports its own proliferation.

Let’s return to the depressed person. For them, depression leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to not getting work done, which leads to more depression.

Depending on your focus, you can frame causal relationships in different ways. If you are trying to describe the slippery slope of depression, you can frame it in terms of a chain: how it gets worse and worse and leads to increasingly dire outcomes. However, in order to describe the spiral of depression, you can frame it in terms of causal homeostasis: how depression leads to worsening depression.

Common-Cause Relationships

These are A ➜ B and C relationships.

A common-cause relationship is when one thing leads to multiple things.

Take again the person suffering from depression. You could frame their depression using the common-cause relationship as well. In this model, depression leads to a lack of motivation AND a lack of appetite.

This relationship is excellent at describing the symptoms of a cause.

Causal Relationship symptom example StudySmarterFig. 2 - Symptoms show a common-cause relationship.

Common-Effect Relationships

These are A and B ➜ C relationships.

A common-effect relationship is when multiple things lead to one thing.

For example, losing a job AND breaking up with someone might lead to depression.

This relationship is great at identifying the many reasons why something happens.

Causal Relationships in Your Essay

When exploring causal relationships in your essay, don’t try to define absolute relationships. As you can see from the examples explored above, you can approach a topic (e.g. depression) in many ways using many models. Instead, use the model of causal relationship that best suits your argument.

If this doesn’t quite make sense yet, that’s okay. It will.

Start with your thesis. Say that this is your thesis:

Gabriel García Márquez uses surrealist elements in a way that illuminates personal and uniquely Colombian insecurities about the past and the future. That said, Márquez breaks the boundaries of language and culture because his unique stories are like fairytales—uncomfortable fantasies that strike a chord at the level of the uncanny, where "who and where" matters far less than "how it feels."

Alright, great. Now let’s say that you want to find evidence to support the underlined portion of this thesis. You’ll need evidence for the whole thesis, of course, but first, narrow it down to the underlined portion for this example.

What kind of relationship would help support this conclusion?

Start with the evidence needed to arrive at the conclusion.

This part of the thesis requires specific examples from Márquez’s work that are emblematic of the fairytale genre. To satisfy this, it would be great to find single passages that hit all the bullet points of our thesis' definition of a fairytale. Which one of the causal relationship models would be useful here?

It sounds like the common-cause model would be useful. Here’s how that would work.

Passage 1 is uncanny AND passage 1 has a moody atmosphere AND passage 1 has an unclear setting and time period. This leads us to the conclusion that Passage 1 is like a fairytale.

Multiple aspects of passage 1 cause it to be emblematic of the fairytale genre.

From there, you could use the model again to support your thesis more completely.

Passage 1 is like a fairytale AND passage 2 is like a fairytale AND passage 3 is like a fairytale. This leads us to the conclusion that the work as a whole is like a fairytale.

Multiple passages in a book make the book emblematic of a fairytale.

This is just one way to approach this thesis. When using causal relationships to support your own thesis, be creative. Use as many causal relationships as are applicable, and explore them from different angles. Think of it like building a web. The tighter your ideas link together from end to end and side to side, the harder your conclusions will be to counter. Fifty links are stronger than one!

Causal Relationships - Key Takeaways

  • In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.
  • A causal chain relationship is when one thing leads to another thing, which leads another thing, and so on.
  • Causal homeostasis is when something supports its own proliferation.
  • A common-cause relationship is when one thing leads to multiple things.
  • A common-effect relationship is when multiple things lead to one thing.

Frequently Asked Questions about Causal Relationships

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause leads to its effect.

Depression leads to a lack of motivation, which leads to not getting work done. This is also an example of a causal chain.

Causal chains, causal homeostasis, common-cause relationships, and common-effect relationships.

Causal relationships are rhetorical models, yes. 

Final Causal Relationships Quiz

Question

Your finger causes a ball to roll. What is this an example of?

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Answer

Cause and effect.

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Question

In argumentation, a causal relationship is the manner in which a cause _____ effect.

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Answer

Leads to its

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Question

"A cause is the reason for an effect. An effect is the result of a cause."

True or false?

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Answer

True.

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Question

In terms of an essay, causal relationships can be used as evidence in your _____ to prove your _____.


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Answer

Body paragraphs, thesis

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Question

What are the four types of causal relationships?

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Answer

Causal chains, causal homeostasis, common-cause, and common-effect.

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Question

A cause is the reason that _____.

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Answer

Something happens

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Question

An effect is _____.

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Answer

Something happening

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Question

This relationship is when one thing leads to another thing, which leads another thing, and so on.

What is it?

Show answer

Answer

A causal chain relationship.

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Question

This relationship is when something supports its own proliferation.

What is it?

Show answer

Answer

Causal homeostasis.

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Question

This relationship is when one thing leads to multiple things.

What is it?

Show answer

Answer

Common-cause.

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Question

This relationship is when multiple things lead to one thing.

What is it?

Show answer

Answer

Common-effect.

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Question

If a viral infection leads to not going to school AND abdominal pain.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Common-cause

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Question

Hot weather and avoiding a high energy bill lead to an uncomfortably hot home.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Common-effect

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Question

Seeing a drummer leads to wanting to be a drummer, which leads to buying a drum kit.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Causal chain

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Question

Watering your plants leads to plants absorbing water, which leads to dry soil, which leads to you watering your plants.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Causal homeostasis

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Question

Contracting the flu causes both fever and fatigue.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

Show answer

Answer

Common-cause

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Question

Contracting the flu and contracting COVID-19 both cause fever and fatigue.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Common-effect

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Question

Contracting the flu leads to a fever, which leads to staying home from school.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Causal chain

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Question

People contracting the flu leads to people becoming contagious, which leads to more people contracting the flu.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Causal homeostasis

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Question

Meditation leads to reduced stress, which leads to better sleep.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

Show answer

Answer

Causal chain

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Question

Meditation causes reduced stress, easier relaxation, and greater mindfulness.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Common-cause

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Question

Meditation leads to experiencing the benefits, which leads to more meditation.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

Show answer

Answer

Causal homeostasis

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Question

Meditation, yoga, and tai chi can all lead to reduced stress.


What kind of causal relationship is this?

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Answer

Common-effect

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