Correlation does not equal causation. This is one of the wisest pieces of advice I have ever heard. In short, it effectively means don’t assume because it might lead you up completely the wrong path.
We can all understand how this might apply to the pandemic crisis – in fact it is a basic rule of general research and epidemiology. In one case a study directly linked football matches taking place in March with an increase in cases of COVID in April. However, as one critic put it: “They have not actually linked cases or outbreaks to football matches and there is no mention of contact tracing or outbreaks that have been obviously linked back to football attendance.” It could all simply have been a coincidence with another, as-yet unidentified source responsible.
I am keeping this example at the forefront of my thinking in assessing the extraordinary turn of events at my auctions since the lockdown started: soaring prices, unprecedented sell-through rates and a much wider net of bidders. A number of obvious causes spring to mind, from bored workers sitting at home looking for somewhere to spend their money to new bidders finally logging on to take part because there was no other way of buying at auction.
I’m sure both of these play a part, but it is clear that other factors are also at play.
Opening bids of ten times the estimate for fairly run-of-the-mill items at our latest books sale are a case in point. I haven’t got to the bottom of this phenomenon yet, but believe me, I’m working on it.