Resources for Causal Reasoning in Health Services Research

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Glossary of Terms

Counterfactual reasoning
Definition
Counterfactual reasoning

comparing potential outcomes of alternative interventions with observed outcomes in a thought experiment

Attributable proportion
Definition
Attributable proportion

a proportion of cases that would not have occurred had the population not been exposed, relative to observed cases in the total population exposed (i.e. counterfactual risk when exposed is compared with observed risk)

d-separation
Definition
d-separation

variables X and Y are said to be d-separated, if all paths from X to Y are blocked. A path may be blocked by a set of variables S, if the path contains at least one arrow-emitting variable that is in S or if the path contains at least one collider that is not in S and has no descendent in S. A collider is defined as a variable on a path such that the path enters and leaves via arrow heads. X and Y are, therefore, d-separated conditional on S, if S blocks all paths between X and Y. X and Y are marginally independent when S contains the null set

Markov assumption
Definition
Markov assumption

conditional on its parents, a variable is independent of any other variable in the directed acyclic graph

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