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#18 - Consumer advocate: Manufacturers of children’s toys of

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Question #18: Flaw, CE. The correct answer choice is (E)

As mentioned previously in this section’s explanations, a header like “consumer advocate” is typically a good indication that an argument is on its way (and as is the case with most LSAT arguments, it’s likely to be flawed).

The advocate begins by telling us that children’s toy manufacturers often put warning labels on their products that overstate the dangers their products pose, which should happen only if the warning reduces injuries. On the contrary, the advocates goes on: the exaggerated warnings are merely for the purpose of protecting against law suits from the parents of injured children. In other words the warnings are for self-protection, rather than genuine, consumer-based protection.

From this the advocate concludes that manufacturers of children’s toys should not overstate the dangers their products pose.

This is a seriously flawed argument, and for a reason you have likely encountered before (if not on the LSAT then certainly in your own life): even if you establish that the reason for doing something is different than the claimed reason, that doesn’t automatically devalue the action itself, or prove that its effect won’t occur. The author never shows that the labels don’t reduce injuries, only that their use is apparently self-serving.

Imagine if a car company installed top-of-the-line airbags and other safety features in its vehicles, claiming passenger safety was their top priority, but you later discover that the real reason was so that the company could get away with charging an extra $15,000 for cars with that equipment. Now that’s a scumbag move, to be sure...but is the right conclusion to demand that the auto company remove the air bags, and roll bars, and seat belts? Of course not! Regardless of cause or motivation (profit, in my example), the effect could still be worth preserving (safety).

So the author has confused the refutation of a cause (the real reason for the warning labels) with the denial of its effect (reducing injuries), and we need an answer choice that expresses that.

Answer choice (A): This argument is not conditional, but causal. So any answer choice that speaks of sufficient and necessary conditions is immediately incorrect.

Answer choice (B): The conclusion is specifically about labels that do overstate dangers (and wanting manufacturers to cease using them), meaning this answer choice—which only speaks of warnings that do not overstate the dangers of a product—fails to address the argument and can be eliminated.

Answer choice (C): Unrepresentative sample flaws occur on occasion, most especially in the use of surveys or polls, but this stimulus does not contain one. For this error to be present we’d need a group to be used as the basis for a conclusion, and for that conclusion to be applied to a group sufficiently different from the sample group that comparing the two is questionable. Doesn’t happen here.

Answer choice (D): Interestingly, and perhaps a bit worryingly given the author’s position as a “consumer advocate,” the notion of legitimate injury prevention is largely ignored here. Instead the advocate seems much more concerned with criticizing the manufacturer’s self-serving motives than with investigating whether the action itself (the labels) still yields positive results. So it’s inaccurate to state, as (D) does, that the author is arguing that injuries won’t be prevented. That idea is altogether absent.

Answer choice (E): This is the correct answer choice.
This is a perfect description of the advocate’s flawed reasoning: using warning labels could still prevent injuries, even if that is not the manufacturer’s primary intention.
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Why is this argument not conditional if there is clear necessary and sufficient conditional language? "Only if...."
Adam Tyson
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Many arguments will mix conditional language with causal language, guilhermeb, and when that happens we usually focus on the more powerful, and inherently more susceptible to flaws, causal aspects of the argument. In fact, every causal argument is inherently also conditional - IF the cause occurs, THEN the effect must occur - so the mixing of these two types of indicators is hardly surprising. The usual form of mixing the two is a conditional premise (if I eat pizza, I get indigestion) followed by a causal conclusion (pizza must therefore be the cause of my indigestion). Focus on the causal conclusion, rather than the conditional premise, to find flaws, identify weaknesses, close gaps, etc.

In short, when both are present, causal reasoning takes priority, especially when the conclusion is causal.

I hope that helps!
Adam M. Tyson
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I do understand why E is right since it does confuse motivation and real effect. However, I think d is also a viable choice. If we negate D, there were justification that waning does not reduce injuries in any circumstance, then the conclusion is correct regardless of the motivation. Is D wrong because it just describes a possible side of flaw rather than the generalized flaw? If this was a justify question, D would be correct?