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#13 - A six-month public health campaign sought to limit

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Please post below with any questions!
sodomojo
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I understand (A) best strengthens, but could (B) also strengthen a little bit?

My line of thinking was that if we knew something to the effect of "the incidence of the common cold, which has many of the same symptoms as influenza, was much higher than usual," that opens the possibility that the increase in the common cold was actually due to misdiagnosed cases of influenza. (B) therefore eliminates this possibility. Or would this be wrong because I'd be challenging the explicit premise that "the incidence of influenza was much lower?"
plum612
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Hi sodomojo,

I think you are overthinking it. Misdiagnosis is not mentioned here--only influenza symptoms. The common cold should have been treated by the informed population like the influenza since the argument covers all illnesses with influenza symptoms. Therefore if [B] the common cold was just as prevalent as ever even though people were exhibiting flu-like symptoms, that would actually weaken the argument, since those with influenza symptoms should have been avoiding public places. If they had avoided public places, this would have also decreased the likelihood of the common cold.

My question is about [C], which I picked--is this wrong because it is referring to public gatherings rather than people who attend public gatherings? I feel like maybe the wording is where I got tripped up. Any help would be great!
Jennifer Janowsky
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sodomojo:

I like your thought process! However, it is true that you can’t challenge the premise that "the incidence of influenza was much lower" since it is taken to be a fact. Therefore, (B) becomes less related to the stimulus information, leaving (A) as the better answer. You don't have to think much further than that, or worry about whether or not these people avoided public spaces. The answer choice simply isn't very relevant because it is already established that the cases in question were influenza.

plum612:

In the stimulus, it states that “Since the incidence of influenza was much lower during those months than experts had predicted, the public evidently heeded the campaign.” However, (C) introduces a new cause for the reduction in influenza cases: less public gatherings would lead to less contact/spread of influenza. For this reason, answer choice (C) actually hurts the conclusion by introducing a possible cause for the reduction in influenza other than their campaign.

Thanks for your questions, I hope I answered them!
mary_jando
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Could you explain why choice D is incorrect and why choice A is correct? I'm not sure i completely understand this question.
Alex Bodaken
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mary_jando,

Thanks for the question.

This is a strengthen question, in which the conclusion is the the public heeded the campaign to wash their hands more frequently. Therefore, we are looking for any answer choice that strengthens the notion that the public listened to the campaign and washed their hands more frequently as a result of it.

With that in mind, let's examine (A) and (D).

(A) reads: The incidence of food-borne illnesses, which can be effectively controlled by frequent hand washing, was markedly lower than usual during the six-month period. This is the credited answer choice because it shows that an additional effect of the stated cause (hand-washing) has occurred. This makes it more likely that the cause itself occurred...in other words, we now have two reasons to believe that more people washed their hands (lower incidences of influenza [mentioned in the stimulus] AND lower incidences of food-borne illnesses) instead of just one (the lower incidences of influenza). The adding of a second effect strengthens the idea that the cause has occurred, thereby strengthening the conclusion.

(D) Independently of the public health campaign, the news media spread the message that one’s risk of contracting influenza can be lessened by frequent hand washing. This is incorrect because it does not strengthen the idea that it was the hand-washing that caused the lower incidences of influenza. Is it entirely possible that a news media campaign about hand washing could have been ineffective, and that more people didn't actually wash their hands, and that incidences of influenza just lowered on their own. We are looking for an answer that deepens the connection between hand-washing and lowering influenza, and this one did not do it.

Hope that helps!
Alex
sbieber1221
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Jennifer Janowsky wrote:sodomojo:

I like your thought process! However, it is true that you can’t challenge the premise that "the incidence of influenza was much lower" since it is taken to be a fact. Therefore, (B) becomes less related to the stimulus information, leaving (A) as the better answer. You don't have to think much further than that, or worry about whether or not these people avoided public spaces. The answer choice simply isn't very relevant because it is already established that the cases in question were influenza.

plum612:

In the stimulus, it states that “Since the incidence of influenza was much lower during those months than experts had predicted, the public evidently heeded the campaign.” However, (C) introduces a new cause for the reduction in influenza cases: less public gatherings would lead to less contact/spread of influenza. For this reason, answer choice (C) actually hurts the conclusion by introducing a possible cause for the reduction in influenza other than their campaign.

Thanks for your questions, I hope I answered them!


Hi Jennifer,

Thank you for this explanation, however, I'm confused why "avoiding public places" and the campaign are considered two separate causes. It states that the as a part of the campaign, they encouraged people to take precautions, like avoiding public places. My logic behind this was that (C) could present evidence that the campaign had an impact on people's actions, thus reducing the incidence of influenza. Is that too much of a stretch?
Jonathan Evans
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Hi, SBieber,

Good analysis here. You are correct that "fewer large public gatherings" could be related to "avoiding public places." However, you are also correct that there is enough of a conceptual gap between these ideas to make answer choice (C) less helpful than answer choice (A). The argument is structured thus:

    Precautions (avoiding public places and washing hands) caused less influenza.

    There was less influenza.

    Conclusion: People must have taken the precautions (avoiding public places and washing hands).

The author concludes that because the effect occurred, the cause must have occurred too.

Answer choice (A), the correct answer, directly increases the likelihood that hand washing occurred. Since another effect of hand washing is less food borne illness, we have additional evidence that hand washing occurred.

Answer choice (C) does give some evidence that could corroborate avoiding public places, but the connection is more tenuous. Just because large gatherings occurred less frequently we do not know whether people avoided public places in general.

Here you have to make a judgment call: which answer provides more direct evidence that the purported causes did indeed occur. There is little doubt that (A) is the better choice, even if you can make a case for (C).

I hope this helps!
JiminyC
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I chose the answer B. It says that the campaign encouraged people to take precautions such as washing their hands frequently and avoiding public places when they experience influenza symptoms. Answer B states the common cold has many of the same symptoms as influenza, so I figured (along with using common sense) that the same precautions are taken to treat a common cold.

Therefore, if the incidence of the common cold had increased significantly in that time frame, it would actually be the treatment of this, instead of the campaign, affecting the influenza numbers?

Am I way overthinking that? I see that as somewhat clear logic, I think. Please let me know where I am (very) wrong.
Rachael Wilkenfeld
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Hi Jiminy,

Reviewing the stimulus, we see that we have a causal relationship. It's a bit complicated, so let's break it down. The cause is that the public heeded the campaign to engage in frequent hand washing and avoid public places when sick with influenza symptoms. The effect is that cases of influenza decreased during this campaign. Our goal here is to strengthen that, by reinforcing the cause/effect relationship.

Let's first turn to answer choice (B), your proposed answer. This answer states that the incidence of a different illness (the common cold) stayed the same. This doesn't really impact either the cause or the effect, because we don't know what impact hand washing has on the common cold. Even if we assume hand washing has a similar effect on the common cold as it does on influenza, it still wouldn't strengthen the relationship. It would weaken it by suggesting that the cause of the decrease in influenza cases was something other than the public campaign to increase hand washing.

Answer choice (A) on the other hand, gives us a reason to suspect the public relation's campaign was the cause of the decrease in influenza. It states that food borne illnesses, which are also avoided by hand washing, decreased at the same time. So we have two different effects from the same suspected cause. That strengthens the idea that the cause (hand washing) occurred.

Hope that helps!
Rachael