Correlation

 
 Editor
Manuel Campos
 Incorporated contributions
Manuel Campos (10/2010)
 Usage domain
transdisciplinar, communication theory, situational theory, cognitive science
 Type
concept
 French
corrélation
 German Korrelation

There is a correlation between two factors when the presence of one makes the presence of the other vary with respect to the average situation.
 

We may obtain knowledge about the world inferring, from the occurrence of a fact (the sign), the occurrence of a different fact (the signified), based on the existence of a correlation between them. This correlation is supposed to hold given certain local conditions (Dretske’s (1981) channel conditions). We then say that the occurrence of the sign carries information on the occurrence of the signified, or that it is a signal of this occurrence. Millikan (2004) calls this notion of information local natural information.

 

An obvious problem with it concerns the value of the conditional probability of the signified, given the sign. In his explanation of the notion, Dretske required that this probability be of 1. In most cases of transmission of information, this has as a consequence the need for an otherwise unjustified strengthening of the channel conditions.
 
On the other hand, if one allows for the conditional probability to be less than 1, other counterintuitive consequences ensue. First, a signal might occur without the occurrence of its signified (even with local conditions holding) −as when a beaver splashes the water with its tail in the absence of any real danger. Second, we would be compelled to say, for instance, that the splashing of the water by the beaver informs its group of the presence of danger even if the corresponding conditional probability is low.
 
References
Millikan, Ruth (2004). Varieties of Meaning: The Jean-Nicod lectures 2002, Cambridge: MIT Press.
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Incorporated entries
 
There is a correlation between two factors when the presence of one makes the presence of the other vary with respect to the average situation.
 

We may obtain knowledge about the world inferring, from the occurrence of a fact (the sign), the occurrence of a different fact (the signified), based on the existence of a correlation between them. This correlation is supposed to hold given certain local conditions (Dretske’s (1981) channel conditions). We then say that the occurrence of the sign carries information on the occurrence of the signified, or that it is a signal of this occurrence. Millikan (2004) calls this notion of information local natural information.

 

An obvious problem with it concerns the value of the conditional probability of the signified, given the sign. In his explanation of the notion, Dretske required that this probability be of 1. In most cases of transmission of information, this has as a consequence the need for an otherwise unjustified strengthening of the channel conditions.
 
On the other hand, if one allows for the conditional probability to be less than 1, other counterintuitive consequences ensue. First, a signal might occur without the occurrence of its signified (even with local conditions holding) −as when a beaver splashes the water with its tail in the absence of any real danger. Second, we would be compelled to say, for instance, that the splashing of the water by the beaver informs its group of the presence of danger even if the corresponding conditional probability is low.
 
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