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#9 - An easy willingness to tell funny stories or jokes

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I was also wondering about Question 16 on page 1-79. I initially assumed that A was a Mistaken negation but then I realized that the stimulus wasn't conditional. SO my question is, if the stimulus isn't conditional, are negations of the stimulus legitimate answer choices? what about mistaken reversals etc?

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Hi A,

Actually there is conditional reasoning in this stimulus. But answer choice (A) is not a Mistaken Negation--it's the contrapositive!

Let's walk through it:

First, the author tells us that an being willing to tell funny stories about yourself means you are self-confident. Diagram that something like this:

WTFS :arrow: SC

Next, the author tells us that WTFS is even more revealing than being willing to have others tell funny stories about you with regard to your level of self-confidence. This is a little bit tricky because the phrasing is subtle, but the author has basically told us that being willing to hear funny stories also indicates that you are self-confident. You can diagram that like this:

WTHS :arrow: SC

Those two statements can be combined as:

WTFS or WHFS :arrow: SC

The contrapositive would then be:


That's what answer choice (A) says. If a person is not self-confident, then they are not willing to tell or hear funny stories about himself or herself.

Hope this helps!

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I originally chose choice C, but now catching the end of the answer I now understand why it is incorrect. Additionally, after seeing the diagrams, choice A seems to be the most logical. However, my question is more general: what indicators are there in these types of questions that suggest I should diagram the premises?

I got another question very similar to this one incorrect (on p. 1-87, Lesson 1, question 5. The contract negotiator question). I don't know if there is a pattern in these types of questions that should prompt me to diagram the premises. If there are indicators, what are they?

Adam Tyson
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Hi there Maria, thanks for your question. This stimulus, while it can be viewed as conditional, is incredibly subtle. Many folks would not see the conditional nature of the claims due to the lack of clear indicators, and others might see it but still choose not to diagram it because it is so far removed from what we usually expect in conditional arguments.

For me, the surest sign that there is conditional reasoning present is not found in the stimulus but in virtually every answer choice. The answers all talk about "people who" in one way or another, and that's a classic conditional indicator. As soon as I see those, I start thinking about conditional reasoning and about paraphrasing the argument into an if...then statement and diagramming it. Working backwards, then, does the job here.

Within the stimulus itself, though, is a subtle indicator that you might latch onto, and that's "surest". That's awfully close to "sure", which is similar enough to "certain" or "required" or "must be true". You might decide to diagram the stimulus solely based on that indicator, or you might not.

I hope that helps!
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If WTFS is the surest mark of SC then I get how we can take the contrapositive of that and say, if no SC then no WTFS.

However, we know that WTHS is not a 100% indicator of SC because it is less revealing than WTFS. To me that is like saying WTHS usually indicates self confidence. Therefore, it's not an absolute if...then statement. It's more like if...then maybe. Can we take the contrapositive of a statement that isn't absolute and use it this way?

This answer choice makes the mistake of turning a probably statement into an always statement in the contrapositive. Isn't this language too strong given the fact that we know WTHS is an indicator but not a guaranteed indicator?
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Hi, Martinbeslu,

Good question. Am I correct to infer that your remark pertains to the credited response, (A)?

Let's address each of your questions individually:

  • This stimulus does not involve formal conditional reasoning. Rather, it involves a degree of semantic parsing. We can use principles of conditional reasoning to describe relationships here, but our observations will lack the absolute degrees of sufficiency and necessity present in formal deductive logic.
  • Note that the question stem itself telegraphs this aspect of the question: "which of the following inferences is most strongly supported...?"
  • In other words, we must select the answer choice that contains a statement for which there is the most support in the stimulus. There may be several statements that have some support. The statement in the credited response may not be a "sure thing," but it's going to be pretty darn close (i.e. if aliens land tomorrow and give everyone chocolate donuts, the inference might not hold, but otherwise, we cool).
  • With respect to what can be properly deduced from these statements, we may know the following:
    1. WTFS :arrow: surest mark of SC
    2. WHFS :arrow: a mark of SC
    3. No SC :arrow: Not WTFS & Not WHFS
  • By parsing these statements, it stands to reason that someone who lacks self-confidence will enjoy neither of these marks of self-confidence. Thus, there is extremely compelling support for answer choice (A).

Thanks for the question. I hope this helps!
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The stimulus states that the willingness to tell funny stories or jokes about oneself is the surest mark of SUPREME self-confidence.

The correct answer (A) says that a person who lacks self-confidence will enjoy neither of those things.

Am I supposed to take the lack of self-confidence as the same as lacking the SUPREME self-confidence as referenced in the stimulus?

Is it the case that only people who lack self-confidence in its entirety won't enjoy telling or hearing funny stories about themselves, not just those who lack supreme self confidence? Could it be that someone who lacks supreme self-confidence, but still maintains a minimal amount of self-confidence could still enjoy hearing and telling jokes about themselves?

I don't know if that makes sense, but the wording of the answer choice doesn't correspond with the wording the stimulus and seems like an exaggerated answer, going from supreme self-confidence to just self-confidence.

James Finch
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Hi M,

Because "supreme self-confidence" is essentially required (a necessary condition) for possession of "an easy willingness to tell funny stories or jokes about oneself," any person that lacks that supreme self-confidence would also then lack the easy willingness to tell funny stories or jokes about oneself. And as by definition self-confidence is a broader category than supreme self-confidence, the highest level of self-confidence, lacking self-confidence in general necessarily means lacking supreme self-confidence, and thus the easy willingness to tell funny stories or jokes about oneself.

As for people who have some but not supreme self-confidence, we can't make any definite inferences about their willingness to tell funny stories or jokes about themselves.

Hope this clears things up!