When confronted by apparently related statistics A and B it's often difficult to determine whether:
- A causes B
- B causes A
- both A and B are caused by some third factor C, or
- A and B are totally unrelated.
An article about a recent study of music and the sexual habits of teenagers contains no information that indicates how the researchers reached their conclusion -- that listening to sexual music prompts teens to have sex.
Teens whose iPods are full of music with raunchy, sexual lyrics start having sex sooner than those who prefer other songs, a study found.
Whether it's hip-hop, rap, pop or rock, much of popular music aimed at teens contains sexual overtones. Its influence on their behavior appears to depend on how the sex is portrayed, researchers found.
Songs depicting men as "sex-driven studs," women as sex objects and with explicit references to sex acts are more likely to trigger early sexual behavior than those where sexual references are more veiled and relationships appear more committed, the study found.
Teens who said they listened to lots of music with degrading sexual messages were almost twice as likely to start having intercourse or other sexual activities within the following two years as were teens who listened to little or no sexually degrading music.
But isn't it just as likely that teens who are predisposed towards sexual activities will seek out sexual music? Perhaps the music doesn't make the teens sexual, but rather the sexual teens gravitate towards the music. Absent further information, there's no logical reason to favor one direction of causation over the other. It's important to remember that just because A and B are seen together doesn't imply that A and B are related, much less that one causes the other.