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#4 - The Magno-Blanket is probably able to relieve arthritic

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Complete Question Explanation

Strengthen—CE. The correct answer choice is (E)

In this stimulus, the author describes a hospital study in which magnets were used to treat people with severe joint pain. In the study, “76 percent of those who were treated with magnets reported reduced pain after just 3 weeks.” The implication of the study is a causal relationship in which the treatment with magnets can reduce arthritic pain.

Without providing much detail, the stimulus tells us that dogs and humans have similar physiologies. Based on this similarity, the author shifts to the idea that magnets likely can be used to relieve arthritic pain in older dogs. More specifically, the author concludes that a device called the Magno-Blanket, which brings magnets into the same proximity to the dog’s joints as they were to the patients’ joints in the hospital study, “is probably able to relieve arthritic pain in older dogs.”

This argument raises several questions that go unanswered. For example, what is the nature and extent of the similarity in the physiologies of dogs and humans? Were the humans in the hospital study treated using a device similar to the Magno-Blanket? If not, what are the differences between the magnets used in the study and the Magno-Blanket, and how might those differences affect the results?

These issues can clutter our prephrase and take our focus off of our standard approach to causal reasoning on the LSAT. The most important piece of the argument is the existence of a causal relationship between treatment using magnets and reduction in severe joint pain. Without that causal relationship, there is no reason to think the Magno-Blanket can do anything to help relieve arthritic pain in dogs. Focus your prephrase on this causal relationship, while at the same time being aware of the other logical gaps, any of which the correct answer choice might address.

Answer choice (A): Implying there is a physiological similarity between dogs and other pets, as suggested by this answer choice, does nothing to support the connection between dogs and humans.

Answer choice (B): The stimulus does not tell us about the transmission of messages from nerve cells to the brain, so it is unclear how this information is relevant to the treatment of joint pain in humans, let alone the suggestion that the Magno-Blanket would relieve arthritic pain in dogs.

Answer choice (C): This answer choice indicates there is a need for a new device that could relieve arthritic pain in dogs, but does not provide support for the conclusion that the Magno-Blanket would be effective.

Answer choice (D): This answer choice highlights some limitations on the effectiveness of treating humans with magnets, and does nothing to support the idea that the Magno-Blanket would be effective in treating dogs.

Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice, because it removes a potential alternate explanation for the results of the hospital study. The stimulus did not provide, as a fact, that treatment with magnets reduces joint pain. Rather, the author implicitly concluded that treatment with magnets relieved joint pain in humans. An alternate explanation for that result could have been that there was a placebo, or psychosomatic effect, at play. In other words, perhaps the idea of receiving the magnet therapy caused the test subjects to experience less pain, rather than the magnets themselves causing the result. By removing an alternate cause, the answer choice strengthens the author’s causal conclusion, which depends on the existence of a causal relationship between treatment with magnets and decreased joint pain.
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Isn't E a very weak strengthener?
It does not talk about the relationship discussed directly in any way...
Adam Tyson
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Thanks for the question, 15!

Two things to deal with here: First, a "weak" strengthen is still a strengthen, and if that's the best answer then that's enough. You don't have to help very much, just help! In this case, the other four answers are no help at all, so E must be the best answer no matter how poor a job you think it does. Get used to weak answers, and even bad answers, on this test - the instructions are clear in asking you to pick the BEST answer (of the five presented), rather than the RIGHT answer or a GOOD answer. "Best" is relative!

Second, what's happening in this answer is a classic Causal Reasoning - Strengthen answer. This answer tells us that when the cause (magnets) is absent, the effect (pain relief) is also absent. While that certainly doesn't prove a causal claim, it's one of the 5 standard ways to strengthen one, and should be a great match for your prephrase once you recognize the causality.

If you are having any troubles with causal reasoning, take another look at Lessons 3 and 4 in particular to see how to handle them.

Keep at it!
Adam M. Tyson
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Hi, thanks for your reply.
I see, so always the best answer instead of good one...good lesson :)