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#2 - A lack of trust in one’s neighbors leads to their

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Complete Question Explanation

This argument is an interesting mix of causal reasoning and argumentation based on study results, and there could easily be confusion about what exactly the conclusion is here. This is reminiscent of an LR question often discussed in our materials that deals with the link between poor nutrition and violent behavior among prison inmates, in which the claim that there is a causal link is often mistaken for the main conclusion, which is that certain recent studies confirm that link. (See October 2003, LR 1, Question 12). Here, as in that case, the problem is not merely a bad causal claim, but the claim that the studies in question support that causal claim. One might expect to find an answer that attacks the value of the study along with, or instead of, attacking the underlying causal relationship.

The study indicates a correlation between locking doors in certain neighborhoods and burglary rates in those neighborhoods, and from that correlation draws a causal conclusion that it is the locking of doors (which apparently equates to not trusting your neighbors) that leads to (causes) higher burglary rates. The likelihood that our author has reversed the cause and effect here is pretty obvious, and an answer that points out this probable reversal would undermine both the first sentence about the causal relationship and also the usefulness of the study in supporting that claim (because the study could just as easily support the reverse cause and effect relationship). In other words, despite any confusion of what the main conclusion is here, you should get the same answer regardless. In that sense it is very different from the older question about poor nutrition, where the validity of the study is at the heart of the flaw, and focusing on the causal claim could easily lead you to an incorrect answer choice.

Answer A: This conditional reasoning answer describes a Mistaken Reversal. As no conditional reasoning is present in the stimulus, this answer must be rejected. Do not select conditional answers for causal arguments, nor vice versa. This is a common wrong answer choice for these types of flaw questions.

Answer B: This answer fails the Fact TestTM by bringing in new information that was not present in the stimulus. The argument does not discuss anything about moral issues, just factual ones about whether a certain correlation indicates a cause and whether a certain study supports that causal claim.

Answer C: A classic "internal contradiction" answer, describing premises that conflict with one another. No such contradiction is present in this stimulus, so this answer (one of the test-makers' favorite distractions) does not describe the flaw present in this case.

Answer D: Another classic, usually wrong, answer, this describes a rare "circular reasoning" flaw. Circular reasoning happens when an author offers no evidence to support their conclusion other than to simply restate that conclusion. Our author did offer actual evidence in the form of the study, and while he may have misinterpreted that evidence, the inclusion of evidence takes it out of the realm of circular reasoning.

Answer E: This is the correct answer. This answer describes one of the classic causal flaws, the possibility that the purported cause and effect may be reversed. This should be a perfect match for our prephrase on this relatively easy causal question, and as it is the only answer that even broaches the subject of causal reasoning it must be, and is, the credited response.
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So the conclusion is the first sentence and the last sentence is premise.
At first I had a little problem with this question because from the premise to the conclusion it paraphrases the contents so I was not sure they are saying the same thing. And for some reason I thought the middle sentence might be the conclusion...
Basically this is just a correlation-causation question, which treats something as a cause that can be actually an effect. (reverse) Right?
By the way, "leads to" always mean "causation" correct?
I was wondering whether conditional statement can be correlation...
So If A happens, then B happens...isn't this correlation relationship?
So answer choice A was kind of tempting but since it says "leads to" I thought causation may be better.

Adam Tyson
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Hey there, 15v, just wanted to follow up on your specific question here about correlation in conditional reasoning. You are absolutely correct that conditional arguments do posit correlations by saying that whenever the sufficient condition is present, the necessary condition is also present, but be careful about two things there:

1) The correlation in conditional reasoning only runs one way, if you will. That is, the necessary condition may not always correlate with the sufficient condition - it can happen alone, independent of the sufficient condition. In that sense, conditional reasoning is not about perfect, constant correlation. For our purposes, it may help to not even think about conditional claims in terms of correlation.

2) Correlation really only becomes an issue when we add causal language, like "leads to". A conditional premise (whenever A happens, B always follows it) could be followed by a causal conclusion (therefore, A must cause B). When that happens, focus your analysis on that causal claim, not the conditional premise, as that is where your flaws, strengthens, weakens, assumptions, etc. will most likely lie. Don't be led astray by the conditional answer, like answer A here, because we need to focus on the stronger (and more obviously flawed) causal claim. Conditional answers to causal flaw questions are among the most common attractive wrong answers, and vice versa.

Good thinking, but don't go down that path too far or you'll get lost. Keep conditional and causal arguments in separate camps, and you'll be all the better for it. Good luck!
Adam M. Tyson
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