45+ Negative Correlation Examples (Definition + Use-cases)

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In our day-to-day lives, we encounter numerous instances where two things seem to move in opposite directions... when one goes up, the other goes down, and vice versa. This fascinating dance of differences is not just a coincidence but a fundamental concept in statistics that helps us make sense of the world around us.

Negative correlation is when two variables move in opposite directions. If one variable increases, the other decreases, or if the first decreases, the second increases. This relationship helps us predict one variable's behavior based on the other, revealing insightful patterns and connections.

In this article, we will unveil the wonders of negative correlation through a bunch of examples across various fields, from economics to health, and from technology to the environment. By exploring these examples, we will discover how negative correlation influences our decisions, shapes our world, and uncovers the hidden relationships between seemingly unrelated things.

What is Negative Correlation?

girl wearing winter clothes

Have you ever noticed how when it’s really hot outside, people rush to buy ice cream, but when it’s cold, they buy more sweaters? This is a simple way to think about negative correlation!

When the temperature goes up (increases), sale of sweaters goes down (decrease). But if we think about it, as the temperature decreases, people buy more sweaters, showing us how one thing can affect another in the opposite way.

In more technical terms, we can differentiate negative correlation from its sibling, positive correlation. In a positive correlation, both variables move in the same direction—when one increases, so does the other, and when one decreases, the other follows suit.

Think about height and shoe size; as people grow taller (increase in height), they generally need larger shoes (increase in shoe size). But in negative correlation, it’s like a seesaw; when one side goes up, the other goes down!

To measure this relationship, scientists and researchers use something called a "correlation coefficient." This is a number between -1 and 1 that tells us how strong the correlation is.

If the coefficient is -1, it’s a perfect negative correlation, meaning the variables move exactly opposite to each other. If it’s 1, it’s a perfect positive correlation. And if it’s 0, there is no correlation, and the variables don’t affect each other at all.

Here’s a real-life analogy to make it clearer: Think about a playground seesaw. When one side (one variable) goes up, the other side (the other variable) goes down. This is just like a negative correlation!

This concept is not just fun to think about but also super important! It helps us make predictions, understand patterns, and see how different things in the world are connected.

For instance, by knowing the relationship between temperature and sweater sales, businesses can prepare for the demand and make sure everyone gets their favorite sweater on a cold fall day!

So, as we delve into numerous examples of negative correlation in the following sections, remember our seesaw and the ice cream sales, and see if you can spot how things move in opposite directions, just like a dance of differences!

Negative Correlation in Research

Origins of the Concept

Once upon a time, people observed the world around them, trying to make sense of how different things were connected. They noticed patterns, like the changing seasons or the movements of the stars, but they didn’t have a systematic way to study these relationships.

That is, until a clever man named Sir Francis Galton came along in the 19th century.

Sir Francis Galton was a curious and inventive man, always seeking to uncover the mysteries of the world.

He was a cousin of the famous Charles Darwin, who studied the theory of evolution. Inspired by Darwin’s work, Galton started to explore the relationships between different characteristics in plants, animals, and even humans!

In his explorations, Galton discovered a way to measure the strength and direction of the relationship between two variables, which he called correlation.

He noticed that sometimes two things would increase or decrease together, like height and weight in people. He termed this a positive correlation.

But other times, when one thing increased, the other decreased, like the relationship between the time spent studying and the number of mistakes made on a test. Galton named this a negative correlation.

Galton’s work laid the foundation for many other researchers and scientists who further developed the theories and methods of studying correlation. They created mathematical formulas, like the one for the correlation coefficient we learned about earlier, to quantify the relationships between variables.

This helped people in various fields, from economics to medicine, to make accurate predictions and understand the intricate dance of different elements in the world.

As we move forward, keep in mind how Galton’s discovery of correlation has paved the way for us to explore the numerous examples of negative correlation in the next sections.

We will see how this concept is applied in various fields and how it continues to help us unravel the secrets of the interconnected world we live in.

Further Understanding

ice cream cone

Pearson Correlation Coefficient

Sir Francis Galton, with his pioneering work on correlation, lit the torch for many researchers and thinkers who would, later on, delve deeper into understanding and utilizing this concept.

One of these thinkers was Karl Pearson, a name that resonates across the field of statistics. He introduced the Pearson correlation coefficient, a measure still widely used today, which quantifies the degree and direction of the relationship between two variables.

Pearson's innovation didn’t stop there; he further explored the realms of probability and regression, which are super important to studying correlation.

His meticulous work and passion for the subject propelled the field forward, allowing researchers across disciplines to adopt and adapt these methods in studying varied phenomena.

Fischer's Experimental Design

Following in Pearson’s footsteps, another renowned theoretician, Ronald A. Fisher, made significant strides in experimental design and hypothesis testing.

Fisher introduced the concept of null hypothesis, which is fundamental in understanding whether the observed negative correlation between variables in a study is due to chance or if there’s an actual underlying relationship. If it's chance, it's called a null hypothesis.

His principles on experimental design have become cornerstone practices in conducting research, ensuring that findings about negative correlation (or any correlation) are robust, reliable, and valid.

Spearman's Rank Correlation Coefficient

The introduction of Spearman's rank correlation coefficient by Charles Spearman offered another approach to measuring relationships, particularly advantageous when dealing with non-linear or ordinal data.

What is non-linear data? Imagine you are watching a car race. If a car zooms forward really fast at a steady pace, covering the same distance every second, that’s like linear data—there’s a straight-line relationship between time and distance.

But what if the car speeds up, slows down, and maybe even goes backward a bit? This unpredictable, curvy path is what we call non-linear data. In non-linear relationships, the change in one variable doesn’t lead to a constant change in another variable; it might have ups and downs and unexpected turns!

What is ordinal data? Picture you and your friends deciding who gets the first turn on a video game, who goes second, and who goes third. You’re not measuring exactly how much better one player is than another; you’re just putting them in order—first, second, third.

This kind of data, where things are put in order or ranked without clear numerical differences between them, is called ordinal data. It’s like standing in line; you know who is before or after you, but you don’t know by exactly how much!

So, when we’re dealing with non-linear or ordinal data in research, we’re exploring relationships that aren’t straight and simple, or we’re looking at things in a certain order without exact measurements between them.

These types of data bring their own challenges, but they also open up exciting possibilities for discovering all sorts of interesting patterns and relationships! If you have a negative correlation with non-linear or ordinal data, you will probably have a correlation coefficient between -0.99 and -0.01, since it isn't a perfect negative correlation.

In other words, if you have a chart, rather than having it look like an "X" with straight lines where one thing is going up and the other is going down, it'll be more squiggly.

Spearman's work has been especially impactful in social sciences, where variables often don’t follow a linear pattern, and understanding negative correlations is really important in observing social dynamics.

Technology and Studying Correlation

Over time, advancements in computational power and technology have also played a vital role in the evolution of studying negative correlation.

The advent of software tools like the R Project for Statistical Computing and SPSS has empowered researchers to analyze complex datasets, visualize relationships with greater ease, and draw insights about negative correlation in complex environments.

Negative Correlation Across Fields

In practical terms, understanding and utilizing negative correlation have become essential in experimental design and research across fields.

In medicine, for example, recognizing a negative correlation between drug dosage and symptom severity can guide treatment plans.

In economics, discerning the inverse relationship between supply and demand or inflation and unemployment can inform fiscal policies.

Negative correlation also holds real importance in risk management and investment strategies. Financial analysts often use this concept to diversify portfolios, balancing assets that are negatively correlated to protect against market volatility and economic downturns.

Additionally, in the realm of psychology and social sciences, recognizing negative correlations, like that between self-esteem and depression, or social integration and feelings of loneliness, contributes significantly to developing treatments and informing public health initiatives.

Experimental Design and Correlation

Let's use an example to see how correlation fits into experimental design.

Imagine you’re a detective on a mission to find out if eating ice cream makes people happy. First, you make a guess or a hypothesis, like “Eating ice cream will make people feel happier.”

Next, you have to figure out what things you will change and what things you will measure. The thing you change is called the "independent variable" – in this case, giving people ice cream.

What you measure is the "dependent variable," here, it’s how happy people are.

So, you give out ice cream and see if people get happier. Afterward, you check the results to find any correlation – like, did happiness usually go up when ice cream was eaten? If yes, there might be a connection.

But be careful, just because two things are connected doesn’t mean one caused the other, that’s called "causation." Maybe it was a sunny day, and that’s why people were happier. So, just because there is correlation does not mean there is causation.

Examples of Negative Correlation


Each of these examples shows how, in different scenarios, when one thing increases, the other decreases, and vice versa, illustrating the concept of negative correlation in various aspects of life.

1) Temperature and Layering of Clothes

As the temperature goes up, people usually wear fewer layers of clothes.

2) Ice Cream Sales and Hot Chocolate Sales

When ice cream sales go up in the summer, hot chocolate sales typically go down.

3) Age and Learning Speed

Generally, as people get older, they might take a bit longer to learn new things compared to kids.

4) Supply and Prices

When stores have a lot of a product, prices usually go down to sell them faster.

5) Exercise and Weight

People who exercise more often tend to weigh less.

6) Study Time and Mistakes on a Test

The more time students spend studying, the fewer mistakes they usually make on a test.

7) Speed of a Car and Travel Time

The faster a car goes, the less time it takes to reach its destination.

8) Rainfall and Outdoor Activities

When it rains a lot, fewer people tend to do activities outside.

9) Height Above Sea Level and Temperature

The higher you go above sea level, the cooler the temperature usually is.

10) Demand and Prices

When more people want to buy something (high demand), the price usually goes up.

11) Seafood Consumption and Distance from the Sea

People living further away from the sea often consume less seafood.

12) Sunlight Exposure and Sleepiness

The more sunlight people are exposed to, the less sleepy they generally feel.

13) Vaccination Rates and Disease Cases

Where more people are vaccinated, there are usually fewer cases of the disease.

14) Pirate Population and Global Warming

It’s a funny observation that as the number of pirates decreased, global temperatures increased!

15) Air Pressure and Altitude

The higher up in the atmosphere you go, the lower the air pressure is.

16) Smoking and Lung Capacity

People who smoke tend to have lower lung capacity over time.

17) Sugar Intake and Dental Health

Consuming a lot of sugar is often associated with poorer dental health.

18) Homework Completion and Detentions

Students who complete their homework regularly usually have fewer detentions.

19) Calorie Intake and Weight Loss

People who consume fewer calories typically lose more weight.

20) Reading and Screen Time

Kids who spend more time reading usually spend less time on screens.

21) Interest Rates and Investment

When banks offer low-interest rates, people and companies often invest more.

22) Unemployment Rates and Economic Growth

When more people have jobs, the economy usually grows faster.

23) Gas Prices and Driving

When gas prices are high, people tend to drive less.

24) Education and Poverty

People with higher levels of education often have lower rates of poverty.

25) Oil Prices and Airline Profits

When oil prices increase, profits for airline companies usually decrease.

26) Humidity and Hair Straightness

For some people, the higher the humidity, the less straight their hair remains.

27) Strength Training and Body Fat Percentage

Regular strength training is typically associated with lower body fat percentages.

28) Milk Consumption and Bone Fractures

Some studies suggest that places with higher milk consumption have higher rates of bone fractures.

29) Renewable Energy Usage and Carbon Emissions

The more renewable energy used, the lower the carbon emissions typically are.

30) Physical Activity and Stress Levels

People who are more physically active often have lower stress levels.

31) Vegetable Consumption and Sickness Rates

People who eat more vegetables tend to get sick less often.

32) Inflation and Purchasing Power

When inflation is high, the purchasing power of money usually decreases.

33) Population Density and Personal Space

In areas with high population density, people usually have less personal space.

34) Public Transport Use and Traffic Congestion

Cities with more public transport use generally experience less traffic congestion.

35) Fertilizer Use and Soil Health

Over time, using a lot of fertilizers can decrease soil health.

36) Deforestation and Wildlife Population

Areas with more deforestation usually have lower wildlife populations.

37) Alcohol Consumption and Reaction Time

The more alcohol someone consumes, the slower their reaction time usually becomes.

38) Watering Plants and Soil Dryness

The more you water the plants, the less dry the soil is.

39) Brushing Teeth and Cavities

People who brush their teeth regularly tend to have fewer cavities.

40) Pet Ownership and Loneliness

People who own pets often report feeling less lonely.

41) Noise Levels and Concentration

In quieter environments, people usually find it easier to concentrate.

42) Antibiotic Usage and Bacterial Resistance

The more antibiotics are used, the more resistant bacteria can become.

43) Volcano Eruptions and Nearby Population

The more frequently a volcano erupts, the fewer people tend to live nearby.

44) Natural Predator Population and Prey Population

When the population of natural predators increases, the population of their prey usually decreases.

45) Recycling Rates and Waste Production

Communities that recycle more typically produce less waste.

Use-Cases of Negative Correlation

village around a volcano

Understanding negative correlation is like having a secret map—it can help us navigate through many different situations. Let’s explore some areas where knowing about negative correlation is super handy.

1. Investment and Finance

Imagine you have a piggy bank, but you want to make your savings grow even bigger. Financial experts use negative correlation to mix different investments.

If one investment is doing a happy dance and going up, another might be having a slow day and going down. By having a mix, you make sure all your eggs aren’t in one basket, keeping your piggy bank smiling.

2. Healthcare

In the world of doctors and nurses, negative correlation is like a helper. When they see that eating more veggies is linked to fewer sick days, they can advise us to munch on carrots and spinach.

3. Education

Teachers and principals use negative correlation too. If they notice that the more time kids spend reading, the fewer troubles they have in school, they might encourage everyone to dive into books.

4. Environmental Conservation

Ever seen a superhero fighting to save the planet? Understanding negative correlation is a tool for real-life earth defenders.

If they find out that using less plastic is connected to having cleaner oceans, they can encourage everyone to use reusable bags and bottles. It’s like joining forces to keep our Earth happy and healthy.

5. Psychology and Well-being

In the land of feelings and thoughts, negative correlation is a guiding star. Psychologists might see that the more friends we have, the less lonely we feel. With this knowledge, they can help us build friendships and find our happy places.

6. Marketing

Imagine you have a lemonade stand. If you realize that the hotter the day, the more lemonade you sell, and the cooler the day, the less you sell, that’s negative correlation.

Businesses use this to know when to sell ice-cream, hot chocolate, umbrellas, or sunglasses, making their lemonade stands super successful.

7. Agriculture

Farmers, with their tractors and scarecrows, use negative correlation too. If they notice that the more it rains, the less they need to water the plants, they can save water and still have bumper crops.

It’s like having a dance where rain and sunshine take turns to make the fruits and veggies grow.

8. Traffic Management

In big cities with cars zooming around, negative correlation helps manage traffic. If city planners see that the more people use bicycles and buses, the less traffic jams happen, they can create bike lanes and better bus routes, making the city a smooth and easy place to move around.

9. Weather Forecasting

Have you ever wondered how weather experts predict rain or sunshine? Negative correlation is one of their tools. By looking at patterns like the higher the clouds, the less likely it will rain, they can tell us whether to carry an umbrella or put on sunscreen.

10. Game Development

In the world of video games, understanding negative correlation can help create exciting adventures. Game developers might notice that the harder the challenge, the less quickly players complete a level. They use this info to design games that are just the right mix of fun and challenging.

Negative Correlation Quiz

The following section has a bunch of different styles of questions to help you test your understanding of negative correlation. The answers are provided at the end.

Multiple Choice Questions

  1. What is Negative Correlation?
    a) When both variables increase together
    b) When one variable increases as the other decreases
    c) When both variables decrease together
    d) When variables are not related
  2. Which is a real-world example of Negative Correlation?
    a) The more you eat, the hungrier you get
    b) The more you study, the better your grades
    c) The higher the temperature, the more sweaters sold
    d) The faster you run, the quicker you finish the race
  3. In finance, why is understanding Negative Correlation important?
    a) To put all money in one investment
    b) To mix different investments
    c) To spend all the money
    d) To avoid investing
  4. What can doctors advise based on Negative Correlation in healthcare?
    a) Eat more candy
    b) Watch more TV
    c) Eat more vegetables
    d) Sleep less
  5. How can Negative Correlation help in education?
    a) By reducing reading time
    b) By increasing screen time
    c) By encouraging more reading
    d) By promoting unhealthy snacks
  6. In Environmental Conservation, Negative Correlation can show that:
    a) Using more plastic means having cleaner oceans
    b) Using less plastic means having cleaner oceans
    c) Littering is good for the environment
    d) Cutting trees helps wildlife
  7. Psychologists use Negative Correlation to understand that:
    a) Having fewer friends makes us happier
    b) Being alone is better
    c) Having more friends can reduce loneliness
    d) Staying indoors is always better
  8. In marketing, Negative Correlation can help in:
    a) Selling lemonade on cold days
    b) Selling hot chocolate on hot days
    c) Knowing when to sell different products
    d) Selling ice cream in winter
  9. Farmers use Negative Correlation to:
    a) Water plants more when it rains
    b) Save water and have good crops
    c) Ignore weather patterns
    d) Use more fertilizers
  10. Traffic Management uses Negative Correlation to:
    a) Increase traffic jams
    b) Reduce public transport
    c) Create bike lanes and better bus routes
    d) Promote car usage

True or False Questions

  1. Negative Correlation means both variables increase together.
    a) True
    b) False
  2. The more exercise you do, the higher your weight – is an example of Negative Correlation.
    a) True
    b) False
  3. Understanding Negative Correlation is not important in finance.
    a) True
    b) False
  4. Eating more vegetables is related to more sick days according to Negative Correlation.
    a) True
    b) False
  5. Teachers use Negative Correlation to encourage less reading.
    a) True
    b) False
  6. Using less plastic is associated with dirtier oceans.
    a) True
    b) False
  7. Having more friends is associated with feeling more lonely.
    a) True
    b) False
  8. In marketing, Negative Correlation helps in selling more ice cream in winter.
    a) True
    b) False
  9. Farmers ignore Negative Correlation to save water.
    a) True
    b) False
  10. Traffic Management uses Negative Correlation to promote car usage.
    a) True
    b) False

Fill in the Blanks

  1. Negative Correlation occurs when one variable __ as the other __.
  2. In finance, Negative Correlation helps to mix different __ to keep investments safe.
  3. Doctors use Negative Correlation to advise people to eat more __ to stay healthy.
  4. Teachers use the understanding of Negative Correlation to encourage students to spend more time __ .
  5. Environmentalists use Negative Correlation to advocate for using __ plastic to help the oceans.
  6. In psychology, having more __ is associated with feeling less lonely due to Negative Correlation.
  7. Marketers use Negative Correlation to decide when to sell different __ based on the weather.
  8. Farmers use Negative Correlation to decide how much to __ the plants based on rainfall.
  9. City planners use Negative Correlation to design better __ and bus routes to reduce traffic.
  10. Game developers use Negative Correlation to design challenges that are not too easy or too __ .


Multiple Choice Questions

  1. b) When one variable increases as the other decreases
  2. c) The higher the temperature, the more sweaters sold
  3. b) To mix different investments
  4. c) Eat more vegetables
  5. c) By encouraging more reading
  6. b) Using less plastic means having cleaner oceans
  7. c) Having more friends can reduce loneliness
  8. c) Knowing when to sell different products
  9. b) Save water and have good crops
  10. c) Create bike lanes and better bus routes

True or False Questions

  1. b) False
  2. b) False
  3. b) False
  4. b) False
  5. b) False
  6. b) False
  7. b) False
  8. b) False
  9. b) False
  10. b) False

Fill in the Blanks

  1. increases, decreases
  2. investments
  3. vegetables
  4. reading
  5. less
  6. friends
  7. products
  8. water
  9. bike lanes
  10. hard


We’ve delved into the intriguing theory of negative correlation, met the minds that shaped its understanding, and seen how it acts like a compass guiding various fields.

From the intricate decisions of financial experts to the caring advice of doctors, from the classrooms buzzing with knowledge to the farmers tending to their fields, negative correlation plays a pivotal role.

We’ve embarked on a journey across various landscapes, witnessing how understanding this concept is crucial in making wise decisions and solving problems.

We’ve seen it in action, helping to keep our planet clean, our cities moving smoothly, and even adding a touch of excitement to the video games we love.

The examples and use-cases we explored showcased the versatility and significance of negative correlation in our everyday lives.

Remember, just like a detective finds clues to solve a mystery, spotting negative correlation helps us uncover relationships between different things.

It’s like having a magic key that unlocks treasures of knowledge, helping us learn, grow, and make the world a better place. So, keep your eyes open, your curiosity alive, and who knows what wonderful discoveries you might make with negative correlation!

Reference this article:

Practical Psychology. (2023, September). 45+ Negative Correlation Examples (Definition + Use-cases). Retrieved from https://practicalpie.com/negative-correlation/.

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