Difference Between Correlation and Regression

Correlation measures the strength and direction of the linear relationship between two variables, denoted by the correlation coefficient, which ranges from -1 to +1. A correlation of +1 indicates a perfect positive relationship, -1 indicates a perfect negative relationship, and 0 indicates no linear relationship.

Regression analysis aims to predict the value of one variable based on the value of another, using a regression equation. It helps to understand how changes in one variable affect changes in another.

Correlation vs Regression

Comparison Chart

Parameter of ComparisonCorrelationRegression
What it tells youStrength and direction of a relationship between two variablesHow much one variable changes in response to another variable
Think of it as…A gauge of how closely two things tend to move togetherAn equation that predicts the value of one variable based on another
Can it predict?Nope, just tells you if they’re connectedAbsolutely! This is its superpower.
Cause and effect?Correlation doesn’t equal causation (think ice cream sales and shark attacks!)Regression can hint at cause and effect, but be cautious – more analysis is needed!
ResultA coefficient between -1 and +1An equation with a slope and a y-intercept

What is Correlation?

Correlation is a statistical measure that describes the relationship between two variables. It is used to measure the strength of the linear relationship between two variables.

 The variables can be anything that can be measured, such as height and weight, IQ scores, etc. Correlation can be positive, negative, or zero.

 It is a value between -1 and 1, where -1 indicates a perfect negative relationship, 0 indicates no relationship, and 1 indicates a perfect positive relationship.

As one variable increases, that means it is a positive correlation, so the other variable also increases. When the other variable decrease, it means that one variable increase causing negative correlation. When there is no relationship between the two variables, it is called zero correlation.

What is Correlation

Types of Correlation

There are different types of correlation coefficients that indicate the direction and strength of the relationship between variables:

  1. Positive Correlation: When the values of one variable increase, the values of the other variable also tend to increase. Conversely, when one variable decreases, the other variable also tends to decrease. This indicates a direct relationship between the variables.
  2. Negative Correlation: In contrast to positive correlation, negative correlation occurs when the values of one variable increase as the values of the other variable decrease, and vice versa. This suggests an inverse relationship between the variables.
  3. Zero Correlation: Zero correlation means that there is no apparent relationship between the variables. Changes in one variable do not predict or influence changes in the other variable. However, it is essential to note that zero correlation does not necessarily imply causation.

Calculating Correlation

The most common measure of correlation is the Pearson correlation coefficient, denoted by “r.” It ranges from -1 to +1, where:

  • r = +1: Perfect positive correlation
  • r = -1: Perfect negative correlation
  • r = 0: No correlation

The formula to calculate the Pearson correlation coefficient between two variables X and Y is:

r = Σ((X – X̄)(Y – Ȳ)) / √(Σ(X – X̄)² * Σ(Y – Ȳ)²)


  • X̄ and Ȳ are the means of variables X and Y, respectively.
  • Σ denotes the summation symbol.
  • The numerator calculates the covariance between X and Y, while the denominator normalizes the covariance to give the correlation coefficient.

Interpreting Correlation Coefficients

The value of the correlation coefficient provides insights into the strength and direction of the relationship between variables:

  • r ≈ +1: Indicates a strong positive correlation, suggesting that the variables move together in the same direction.
  • r ≈ -1: Represents a strong negative correlation, indicating that the variables move in opposite directions.
  • r ≈ 0: Suggests little to no linear relationship between the variables.

It’s crucial to remember that correlation does not imply causation. Even if two variables are highly correlated, it does not necessarily mean that changes in one variable cause changes in the other. Other factors or variables may be influencing the observed relationship.

Limitations of Correlation Analysis

While correlation analysis provides valuable insights into relationships between variables, it has some limitations:

  1. Does Not Establish Causation: Correlation does not imply causation. Establishing causation requires further experimental or observational studies.
  2. Influenced by Outliers: Outliers in the data can significantly impact the correlation coefficient, potentially leading to misleading interpretations.
  3. Limited to Linear Relationships: Correlation coefficients measure only linear relationships between variables. Non-linear relationships may exist but go undetected through correlation analysis alone.

Examples of Correlation

  1. Height and Weight: There’s a positive correlation between height and weight in adults. Generally, taller individuals tend to weigh more, although the strength of the correlation may vary.
  2. Ice Cream Sales and Temperature: During hotter months, ice cream sales tend to increase. This demonstrates a positive correlation between temperature and ice cream sales.
  3. Education Level and Income: Typically, people with higher levels of education tend to have higher incomes. This relationship indicates a positive correlation between education level and income.
  4. Smoking and Lung Cancer: Research has shown a strong positive correlation between smoking and the likelihood of developing lung cancer. As smoking increases, so does the risk of lung cancer.
  5. Hours of Study and Exam Scores: In academic settings, there’s a positive correlation between the number of hours students study and their exam scores. Generally, more study time leads to better performance on exams.

What is Regression?

Regression is a statistical method used to predict the value of a dependent variable (called a ‘target’ or ‘outcome’) based on the values of one or more independent variables (called ‘predictors’ or ‘covariates’).

The independent variables can be categorical (e.g., sex, race, treatment group) or continuous (e.g., age, income, hours of sleep). The dependent variable can be continuous (e.g., height, weight, IQ) or categorical (e.g., success/failure, pass/fail).

Types of Regression

There are several types of regression analysis, each suitable for different types of data and research questions. The two main categories are:

  1. Linear Regression: Linear regression is used when the relationship between the independent and dependent variables can be approximated by a straight line. It is one of the simplest forms of regression analysis and is widely applied in predictive modeling and forecasting.
  2. Non-linear Regression: Non-linear regression is used when the relationship between the variables cannot be adequately represented by a linear model. It allows for more complex relationships to be modeled, such as exponential, logarithmic, or polynomial relationships.

Assumptions of Regression Analysis

Regression analysis relies on several key assumptions:

  1. Linearity: The relationship between the independent and dependent variables is linear.
  2. Independence: The observations are independent of each other.
  3. Homoscedasticity: The variance of the residuals is constant across all levels of the independent variables.
  4. Normality: The residuals are normally distributed.
  5. No multicollinearity: The independent variables are not highly correlated with each other.

Violation of these assumptions can lead to biased estimates and inaccurate predictions, so it is essential to assess and address them appropriately.

Examples of Regression

  1. Sales Forecasting: Businesses use regression analysis to predict future sales based on historical data, market trends, and other relevant variables.
  2. Stock Price Prediction: Financial analysts employ regression models to forecast stock prices by analyzing factors such as company performance, market conditions, and economic indicators.
  3. Medical Research: Regression analysis is utilized in medical research to identify relationships between various risk factors (like smoking, diet, exercise) and health outcomes (such as heart disease or diabetes).
  4. Real Estate Pricing: Regression models help in determining real estate prices by considering factors like location, property size, amenities, and recent sales in the area.
  5. Marketing Effectiveness: Regression analysis assists marketers in assessing the effectiveness of advertising campaigns, analyzing how different variables (like ad spending, demographics, etc.) influence sales or brand awareness.

Difference Between Correlation and Regression


  1. Correlation: Correlation measures the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables. It doesn’t imply causation but only indicates how closely related the variables are.
  2. Regression: Regression, on the other hand, seeks to predict one variable (dependent variable) based on the values of other variables (independent variables). It attempts to model the relationship between variables and make predictions based on that model.


  1. Correlation: Correlation is primarily used to understand the nature and strength of the relationship between two variables. It helps in identifying patterns and associations but doesn’t provide information about causality.
  2. Regression: Regression, on the other hand, is used for prediction and understanding the effect of one or more variables on another. It aims to quantify the relationship between variables and make predictions based on that relationship.


  1. Correlation: Correlation is represented by a correlation coefficient, such as Pearson’s r, which ranges from -1 to 1. A value close to 1 indicates a strong positive correlation, close to -1 indicates a strong negative correlation, and close to 0 indicates no correlation.
  2. Regression: Regression is represented by an equation of the form Y = a + bX + ε, where Y is the dependent variable, X is the independent variable, a is the intercept, b is the slope, and ε is the error term. This equation describes the relationship between the variables and allows for prediction.


  1. Correlation: Correlation does not imply causation and does not specify the direction of the relationship between variables. It only indicates the strength and nature of the relationship.
  2. Regression: Regression can indicate the direction of the relationship between variables by examining the sign of the coefficients. A positive coefficient suggests a positive relationship, while a negative coefficient suggests a negative relationship.


  1. Correlation: Correlation is useful when you want to identify relationships between variables, such as the relationship between smoking and lung cancer or between study hours and exam scores.
  2. Regression: Regression is more suitable when you want to make predictions or understand the impact of one variable on another, such as predicting house prices based on square footage, location, and other factors.


  1. Correlation: Correlation analysis assumes that both variables are continuous and that the relationship between them is linear.
  2. Regression: Regression analysis assumes a linear relationship between variables, independence of observations, homoscedasticity (constant variance of residuals), and normally distributed residuals.


  1. Correlation: Correlation coefficients provide a measure of the strength and direction of the relationship between variables. However, they do not provide information about the cause-and-effect relationship.
  2. Regression: Regression analysis not only quantifies the relationship between variables but also allows for prediction and interpretation of the impact of independent variables on the dependent variable.


  1. https://www.jstor.org/stable/2331722