Collider (epidemiology)

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In statistics, a variable is termed a collider when it is the outcome of two (or more) variables (that may or may not themselves be correlated) (See Figure 1). The name "collider" reflects the fact that in graphical models, the arrow heads from variables that lead into the collider appear to "collide" on the node that is the collider[1]

Figure 1: SEM model of a Collider

The result of having a collider in the path is that the collider blocks[2][3][4] the association between the variables that influence it.

Thus in the example shown on the right, "controlling" for the collider will cause the correlation between predictors X and Y to be biased (Berkson's paradox). The collider in this way "blocks" the association between its predictors.

Colliders can confound attempts to test causal theories: By' "controlling" for what they consider to be a background variable such as education, researchers can unwittingly inducing false correlations among the variables of interest, and thus risk promoting theories for which there is in fact no support.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hernan, Miguel A; Robins, James M (2010), Causal inference, Chapman & Hall/CRC monographs on statistics & applied probability, CRC, p. 70, ISBN 1-4200-7616-7 
  2. ^ Greenland, Sander; Pearl, Judea; Robins, James M (January 1999), "Causal Diagrams for Epidemiologic Research" (PDF), Epidemiology, 10 (1): 37–48, doi:10.1097/00001648-199901000-00008, ISSN 1044-3983, OCLC 484244020 
  3. ^ Pearl, Judea (1986). "Fusion, Propagation and Structuring in Belief Networks". Artificial Intelligence. 29 (3): 241–288. doi:10.1016/0004-3702(86)90072-x. 
  4. ^ Pearl, Judea (1988). Probabilistic reasoning in intelligent systems: networks of plausible inference. Morgan Kaufmann.