Weaken. The correct answer choice is (A)
According to this stimulus, corporations that encourage frequent social events in the workplace show higher profits than those businesses that rarely encourage such events. The writer concludes, based upon this, that EZ Corp. could raise its profits by having more staff parties during business hours. This conclusion is apparently based on the author’s questionable assumption that there must be a cause and effect relationship: increased socializing in the workplace causes higher profits.
The question stem asks which answer choice most weakens the conclusion.
To weaken a causal conclusion, we have several options to consider:
- 1. Show that an alternative cause exists.
2. Show that the supposed cause exists without the supposed effect.
3. Show that the hypothesized effect exists without the assumed cause.
4. Show that the elements thought to be cause and effect were reversed.
5. Show an effective attack on the data.
Answer choice (A): This is the correct answer choice. If the great majority of corporations that encourage frequent social events in the workplace do so because they are already earning higher profits, this appears to be a case of mistaken cause and effect (as prephrased fourth above).
Answer choice (B): The writer’s conclusion is that staff parties during business hours will lead to higher profits. The fact that there are some corporations with higher profits who throw parties after hours is not relevant to the value of business hour staff parties, so this choice is incorrect.
Answer choice (C): Some might be tempted to equate the “above average profits” in this answer choice with boosting profits as concluded in the stimulus. These are different effects, and therefore, this answer choice does not weaken the conclusion in the stimulus which deals with boosting profits, not profits that happen to be “above average.”
Answer choice (D): This answer choice states that frequent social events in a corporate workplace leave employees with less time to perform their assigned duties than they otherwise would have. This does not address why companies with frequent workplace social activities tend to have higher than average profits. Because it does not address this, it cannot be said to weaken the writer’s conclusion.
Answer choice (E): This answer choice does not present an alternative cause, but it may show that the cause (workplace parties) has existed in the past. The stimulus states that EZ Corporation has not always been one of the most profitable companies for its size. But how did it compare to other similar companies at that time? Were these parties boosting the corporation’s profitability? Since we don’t know, this limited information has little effect on the strength of the argument in the stimulus.