I work in IT and we run into a common issue where whenever we announce that we have done something like adding a new feature to a program, updating servers or what have you... users start coming forward with lists of problems they have that they think are related to the changes.

For example we announced this morning that last night we turned on a feature to automate a process of sending out several different email notices to customers. This afternoon I got called into an emergency meeting about the new email "thing" being "all messed up". It turns out one user on the billing team received a standard email send reject notice from a customers email server because their mailbox was full and not accepting emails. Obviously in no way related to what we did but they had a panic attack and thought it was.

So long winded description but what i'm looking for is if there is some word or phrase for this phenomenon.

4 Answers 4


They are guilty of a post hoc fallacy.

  • Perfect choice, and good attribution.
    – MetaEd
    Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 23:07
  • @JeffSahol Thanks that seems to describe the issue pretty well. Commented Jan 28, 2012 at 0:12

They are assuming that correlation implies causation, when really the two are independent events.


I suggest spurious.

In scientific / technical contexts, it means falsely inferred causation.


This is known as misattribution.

  • 1
    I agree misattribution can be used for errors resulting from conflation of correlation and causation, and in context there should be no ambiguity, but imho its primary context is the erroneous attribution of words to someone who didn't actually say/write them. Commented Jan 27, 2012 at 21:35

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