Flaw in the Reasoning—FL. The correct answer choice is (D)
There are two areas of difficulty in this question. First, the question stem is worded confusingly, masking that this is a Parallel Reasoning, Flaw in the Reasoning question. Next, there are two logical flaws in the stimulus to discover and consider in reviewing the answer choices, including a second appearance of Formal Logic in this section.
The company president predicts that the Vegetaste Burger will probably be very successful. The president backs up this prediction with evidence that almost every really successful product introduced in the last ten years has been launched by a massive television advertising campaign. Since the company will be using a massive television advertising campaign to introduce the Vegetaste Burger, the president concludes the Vegetaste Burger will probably be very successful.
The president’s argument is flawed because it commits a time-shift error, though a tempered one. A time-shift error involves assuming that conditions remain constant over time, and that what was the case in the past will be the case in the present or in the future. Often, the conclusion that results from a time-shift error is definitive. Here, the conclusion is probabilistic, but is a time-shift error nonetheless. Just because almost every really successful product introduced in the last ten years has been launched by a massive television advertising campaign does not provide support for the conclusion that the Vegetaste Burger will probably be very successful because of its anticipated, massive television advertising campaign.
Perhaps there is something about the Vegetaste Burger that makes it particularly unsuited for launch by a television advertising campaign. Maybe an important market segment no longer watches television, but rather gets its entertainment online. There could be any number of reasons why what was true in the past will not be true in the future. It is not necessary that you identify these potential reasons, so long as you recognize that it is improper to assume that conditions will remain constant over time.
The second error is one of Formal Logic, in which the president improperly reverses the relationship provided in the first sentence of the stimulus: almost every really successful product introduced in the last ten years has been launched by a massive television advertising campaign. This statement is diagrammed below. Note that when you diagram a relationship involving the term “almost,” you symbolize that term as “most.” This is because the word “most” can be defined as “a majority, possibly all.”
RSP = really successful product introduced in the last ten years
MTAC = launched by a massive television advertising campaign
- RSP MTAC
After establishing this relationship, the president then concludes that since the Vegetaste Burger is being launched by a massive television advertising campaign, it will probably be very successful as well. Essentially, the president is saying that almost every product launched by a massive television advertising campaign is really successful, which you would diagram as:
- MTAC RSP
This inference is unsupported, because the “most” relationship in Formal Logic is non-reversible, meaning the relationship between the two variables does not have exactly the same meaning regardless of which “side” of the relationship is the starting point of the analysis. In this case, beginning the analysis with the MTAC term produces only this relationship: some products launched by a massive television advertising campaign are really successful:
- MTAC RSP
A proper inference from this relationship would be that the Vegetaste Burger might be very successful given its launch by a massive television advertising campaign. This conclusion would avoid not only the Formal Logic error, but also the time-shift error. However, the president’s conclusion commits both errors.
To quickly attack the answer choices, first eliminate any answer choice that does not have a probabilistic conclusion that predicts what will occur in the future. If the conclusion is not predictive, then the argument will not have committed the same time-shift error. If the conclusion is not probabilistic, then the argument will not have committed the same reversal of Formal Logic.
Answer choice (A): This answer choice is incorrect because its conclusion, that the president of Corbin Corporation has an office that is not in Corbin’s headquarters building, is a definitive statement of a current state of affairs, rather than a probabilistic prediction about what will occur in the future.
Answer choice (B): The conclusion to this answer choice, that Donna has at least ten years of experience as a computer programmer, is also a definitive statement of a current state of affairs. This answer choice is more attractive than answer choice (A), however, since its final premise is a probabilistic prediction about what will occur in the future.
Answer choice (C): This answer choice is incorrect, because its conclusion, that almost all of Acme’s employees oppose the pending merger with Barrington Corporation, is not a prediction regarding the future, despite the pending status of the merger.
Answer choice (D): This is the correct answer choice. As with the argument in the stimulus, the conclusion to this argument results from two reasoning flaws. First, the argument commits a time- shift error when it predicts the likelihood of Robinson being appointed as president based on what has occurred in the past. Second, the conclusion results from an improper reversal of the evidence that almost every one of Sifton’s previous presidents had a Ph.D.
Answer choice (E): The argument in this answer choice commits only the time shift error described above, when it concludes that the novel will probably earn a profit for its publisher based on the past performance of prior novels published by Peninsula Press.