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#17- An association between two types of conditions does not

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Upon review of this question, I went with the correct answer B. However, I couldn't specifically see the greatest flaw with C. The only thing I could think is that it says "in some areas" which makes any association less plausible. Is my analysis correct or am I missing the larger problem within C. Thank you.


Emily Haney-Caron
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Hi Micah,

You're partly right, but the bigger problem with C is the second half of the last sentence; that breaks from the principle by sort of introducing another idea. Hope that helps!
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It does. I think I mistakenly associated the association in the premise being "inconclusive" with the "purely coincidental" association in C. Thank you.
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So the basic principle here is that correlation b/w two elements does not prove causation. So I had initially picked E, but this is incorrect because the stimulus is saying that even when two conditions are alike (Greek and Latin) their similarities do not prove that they are related to one another.

The part that I'm getting confused about is the second half of E where it says that " But how are we to know that the similarities are not actually due to the two languages having borrowed structures from one another" doesn't this match up with the stimulus when it says " such association is often due to conditions of both types being effects of the same kind of cause.

Isnt the borrowed structure part "the same kind of cause?"

Jonathan Evans
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Hi, Sarah,

Good question. In your prephrasing here it would be important to focus on the core elements of the stimulus that you need to parallel and match in the answer choice. This stimulus is a rather succinct (and excellent!) encapsulation of one causal fallacy.

Break it down for yourself into easy parts.

  1. What do we have? Two elements/events.
  2. What's going on? They always seem to occur together.
  3. What might people think? One causes the other.
  4. What's actually happening? There's another common cause for both.

Now try to match this with Answer Choice (E). We have two elements/events (Greek and Latin), but here the proposal is that they both come from a common ancestor. This situation actually more closely adheres not to the initial causal flaw (that one caused the other) but actually to the correct possible relationship outlined in the end. Then the answer choice goes backwards to suggest that in fact there might not be a common origin for both but that similarities could be caused by each other. This is at best a reversal of the principle outlined in the stimulus.
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My question regards distinguishing between (A) and (B).

My thought processes were as follows:
*stimulus: understood as association does not establish correlation between two things. Further, it is "more often" the case that the two specified cases associated are mostly drawn from the same cause (which I synonymously thought of as "same phenomena").
*A)- rapid growth causes inflation. (this is the association). Says this view is incorrect (or naive). then goes to discuss how they are of the same phenomena.
*B)- what I see here is an "outside cause" being brought into picture: ie. unhealthy lifestyle and how that does not fall into place of "same cause" as discussed at the end of stimulus.

These are my thought processes at my stage in prep. Critical evaluation would be much appreciated!!!
Adam Tyson
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Hey Paul, let me see if I can help here. The stimulus is saying that correlation between two thing does not prove one of them causes the other, because something else could be causing both things. Be careful about how you paraphrase the stimulus - the author never said that this outside cause issues is more often the case, only that it is often the case. That doesn't have to mean most of the time, because "often" is very subjective. Maybe 30% of the time is enough to say it is often the case? Bringing in "most often" to your analysis could cause you real trouble when you get to the answers!

Also, the argument is not saying that two things are the same thing - it's saying that they are often caused by the same outside cause, a third thing. "Such association is often due to conditions of both types being effects of the same kind of cause" means that the two things that correlate with each other are not a cause and an effect, but are both the effects of something else. The author is saying that something is causing the two correlated things to occur, but they are not necessarily causing each other to occur. I might be sad every time my wife is sad, but that doesn't mean that her sadness causes mine or that mine causes hers. Often there are just things that make us both sad at the same time.

Answer A is incorrect because it does not draw a conclusion about a third, outside cause. Instead, it denies that there is any causal relationship and claims instead that two thing thought to be correlated are really just two different names for the same thing.

Answer B is correct because, like my example above, it shows two things that are correlated and suggests that rather than one of them causing the other, some third thing could be causing both. That matches the stimulus! Not that two things ARE the same, but they could both be CAUSED BY the same thing.
Adam M. Tyson
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