LSAT 91 – Section 2 – Question 22

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Type Tags Answer
Curve Question
PT91 S2 Q22
Method of reasoning or descriptive +Method
+Hardest 145.724 +SubsectionMedium

This is a Method of Reasoning question.

The argument is pretty abstract which is a big reason why this question is difficult. It starts with other people’s position (OPP). Some researchers claim that people tend to gesture more when they speak about what would typically be considered physical concepts than abstract ones. Okay, so according to these researchers, someone speaking about cats and dogs will tend to gesture more than when speaking about prime numbers. That sounds plausible, I guess.

Now the author transitions to her argument. She opens with her conclusion that to point out that such a correlation (that’s OPP, the correlation between gesture and physical concepts) is far from universal is insufficient to reject OPP. In other words, pointing out exceptions to the correlation isn’t enough to reject the correlation. That also sounds right. In general, a correlation isn’t ironclad. There will be nonconforming exceptions. That’s my reasoning, not the author’s. Before we get to the author’s premise, note that the author is actually defending OPP! Is it Christmas in July? What is happening? The author’s conclusion is basically “Here’s one ineffective line of attack on OPP. You can’t just point out that the correlation isn’t universal and think that constitutes a successful attack on the correlation.”

Okay, now that we’ve gotten over the shock, what is her premise? How does she support that conclusion? “Because” some people perceive words like “comprehension” as a physical action like grasping something, whereas others perceive it as an abstract action like a state of understanding. Alright, that works. She’s saying you can’t attack OPP by pointing out apparent counterexamples because it’s not clear that they even are counterexamples. Take “comprehension,” for instance. Someone gestures a lot when talking about comprehension, whereas someone else gestures a little. Is that a counterexample to the correlation that gesture goes with physical concepts? Well, not necessarily because it could be that the person gesturing a lot perceives “comprehension” as a physical act, whereas a person not gesturing much perceives “comprehension” as an abstract act. In that case, this would fit with the correlation.

Let’s look at the answers now.

Answer Choice (A) can be analyzed piecemeal by looking at the conclusion and premise descriptors separately. (A) says the argument “appeals to X in an attempt to show Y.” We appeal to premises to show conclusions, not the other way around. So the first part is the premise descriptor and the second part the conclusion descriptor. Is there an appeal to the ambiguity of a word in the premise? Yes. “Comprehension” is the word. And it’s ambiguous whether that’s perceived as a physical or abstract concept. Great, let’s now look at the conclusion descriptor. “In an attempt to show that a correlation is universal.” But that’s wrong. The author’s conclusion isn’t trying to show that the correlation is universal. She’s just fending off one particular attack on it being universal. There’s a difference between affirmatively proving a position, which she’s not doing here, and pointing out that a class of arguments is weak, which she is doing here.

Answer Choice (B) can also be analyzed piecemeal. The premise descriptor says that the argument “appeals to a universal psychological generalization.” But that’s not an accurate description of the premise. If anything, the premise is a rejection of a universal psychological generalization. The premise declares that some people perceive a word one way and others another. The only part of the stimulus that might be accurately characterized as a universal psychological generalization is OPP. That’s enough to eliminate (B). The conclusion descriptor says, “in an attempt to support a claim about the use of gestures.” That’s also an inaccurate description. The conclusion is that one claim isn’t powerful enough to reject another claim.

Correct Answer Choice (C) can also be analyzed piecemeal. (C) says the argument “cites X to try to show Y.” We cite premises to reach conclusions, so the first part is the premise descriptor and the second part the conclusion descriptor. The premise descriptor says, “citing a psychological fact.” Yes, that’s true. The psychological fact cited is that people perceive words like “comprehension” differently. The conclusion descriptor says, “to try to reconcile a generalization with apparently disconfirming evidence.” That’s also true. That’s not the most direct description of the conclusion but that’s certainly the underlying reasoning. The reason why the author says this particular line of attack on OPP fails is because what looks like disconfirming evidence (the variable rates of gestures with the word “comprehension”) may be reconciled with the generalization (the correlation) by realizing that people perceive the word differently.

Answer Choice (D) can also be analyzed piecemeal. (D) says the argument “advocates X by attempting to demonstrate that Y.” We advocate conclusions so the first part is the conclusion descriptor and the second part the premise descriptor. But the conclusion descriptor is inaccurate. The author’s conclusion isn’t an explanation of a phenomenon. Her premise, on the other hand, can be viewed as an explanation of a phenomenon. Her premise explains why there’s inconsistency between gesturing and articulations of certain words like “comprehension.” The explanation is that people perceive those kinds of words differently. Yet (D) describes that premise inaccurately as “attempting to demonstrate that other possible explanations are implausible.”

Answer Choice (E) says the argument offers a reason for believing that a widely accepted generalization requires still more supporting evidence. First of all, what’s “widely accepted generalization”? The correlation claimed by “some researchers”? There’s no evidence that that’s widely accepted. Already inaccurate. Second, the author isn’t arguing for the claim that the correlation requires more supporting evidence. Rather, as already discussed, the author is just protecting that correlation from one particular mode of attack.

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