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#20 - Medical reporter: Studies have consistently found that

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Complete Question Explanation

Flaw in the Reasoning. The correct answer choice is (B)

This medical reporter provides that aspirin can slightly thin the blood when taken once a day. This can help prevent heart disease, or reduce its severity. Based on the fact that heart disease is among the most common maladies in modern industrial nations, the medical reporter concludes that most people in those countries would be better off were they to begin taking an aspirin a day:

    Premise: ..... Daily aspirin can thin the blood, which can prevent or reduce heart disease.

    Premise: ..... Heart disease is one of the most common ills in industrial nations.

    Conclusion: ..... Therefore most people in those nations would be better off if they took an aspirin a day.
The question that follows asks for the flaw in the author’s reasoning. The issue here is that, although heart disease is among the most common diseases in industrial nations, the possibility remains that heart disease appears in only a very small percentage of the population overall. If that is the case, then taking aspirin might not be advisable for the majority of the people who live in those nations (since the vast majority of the overall population might not be at any risk for heart disease).

Answer choice (A): The medical reporter states that an aspirin a day can help prevent heart disease or reduce its severity. The reasoning does not presume that any medication that can reduce the severity can also prevent some forms of the disease, so this choice does not describe the author’s flaw.

Answer choice (B): This is the correct answer choice. As discussed, the author does not consider the possibility that, although heart disease is among the most common maladies in the nations discussed, it may only appear in a small portion of the population as a whole.

Answer choice (C): The medical reporter is focused on the ability of daily aspirin to reduce or prevent heart disease. This does not require considering that other diseases might not be impacted, so this is not a flaw of the author’s argument.

Answer choice (D): The doctor is focused on one type of medication and its effects on one type of malady. This argument need not consider the possibility that more effective measures exist, so this choice should be ruled out of contention in response to this Flaw question.

Answer choice (E): There is no need to address the possibility that studies of aspirin’s effects were only conducted in industrialized nations—that would not have any impact on the credibility of the studies, so this choice does not describe the flaw reflected in the stimulus.
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Can you please explain why B is a better choice than C? I was drawn to C because of the wording of "better health" in the conclusion, which seemed like a slightly new element.


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Hi Angela,

Thanks for your question! "Better health" does seem like a bit of a leap from preventing or reducing the severity of heart disease. But remember that it's relative--"better" health isn't necessarily "good" health. If you take an aspirin a day, even if you have another disease, at least your heart would be in better shape. Having diabetes alone would put you in "better" health than having diabetes AND heart disease. So C isn't the best answer here since aspirin doesn't need to impact any other disease to put people in relatively better health.

B points out that most people might not be in danger of having heart disease at all and therefore most people wouldn't be in better health if they took an aspirin a day. Aspirin can't help out your heart disease if you are not in any significant danger of developing heart disease. So if most people are not in danger of heart disease, taking an aspirin a day would essentially have no effect on their health.

Hope that helps!

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Hello! I'm a little confused as to how a disease can be the most common (which implies that it happens commonly to people) is not the same as many people getting it? like how is B right? if a disease is most common, then how can only 2% of the population have it?
Robert Carroll
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The stimulus is trading on two different meanings of "most" here.

Note the difference between the following two statements:

"The most common cause of death is heart disease."

"Most people die of heart disease."

The first statement means heart disease is more common than other causes, but that doesn't entail that more than 50% of people die from it - it could be that 5% of people die of heart disease, 4% from cancer, 4% from car accident, etc.

The second statement DOES mean that more than 50% of people die of heart disease.

For the recommendation to apply to "most people", the second interpretation would have to be used. But the statement made in the premise just says heart disease is "one of the most common" types of ill health. So...that premise is using a meaning of "most" similar to the meaning of the FIRST statement, whereas the conclusion depends on "most" having a similar meaning to that in the SECOND statement.

Further, a thing can be "most common" or "one of the most common" without being particularly common. Imagine there are hundreds of causes of death. The "most common" one of those could still only affect a relatively small number of people - maybe 1% for the most common cause, 0.9% for the next one, until we get a bunch of different causes, all adding up to 100%. So something can be "most common" without being particularly common from an absolute perspective.

Robert Carroll