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#20 - Monroe, despite his generally poor appetite

brettb
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I'm having a little difficulty with the answer choices. I chose B.

I saw the flaw as Mistaken Cause & Effect. He concluded that eating the hot peppers made him sick. When the cause could have been any number of things. Cook didn't wash their hands, etc.

I eliminated C, D, and E (correct answer choice) pretty quickly.

I kept A as a contender, but eliminated it on second pass. I then went with B.

I saw B as saying "He assumed a causal relationship without making sure the assumed cause came before the assumed effect" which is what I thought he did.

Looking at answer choice E - I still don't see how it is correct. "Overlooking the fact that all 3 meals he consumed what was, for him, an usually large quantity of food." How do we know how much he normally eats to measure as a baseline? The stimulus says he generally has a poor appetite. If he generally has a poor appetite then how would we be able to know what was a large quantity of food for him? Since this is a first family question and we don't have to take the answer choices as true this just added to my confusion.
Dave Killoran
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Hi Brett,

Thanks for the question! You are correct that this is a mistaken cause and effect situation, and you were right to get it down to (B) and (E). So, let's discuss each answer and see if we can figure out the difference.

First, you are correct about this being a First Family question. Accordingly, we can take the facts of the stimulus and use those to determine what is occurring. the statements int he stimulus will prove or disprove these answers.

Looking at answer choice (B) first, what does the stimulus tell us about Monroe? Well, we know he ate three separate meals with hot peppers, and, importantly, "after each meal he became ill" (italics added for emphasis). Then, at the end, Monroe concludes that the peppers were the sole culprit. In answer choice (B), let's break down each part:


    "He posits a causal relationship..." — yes, he did this, right at the end (note: there could be some argument about the use of "posits," but I don't see it as critical. "Posits" often refers to using statements as fact, and here this is a conclusion, but overall, I don't believe LSAC would say this answer is wrong due to the exact meaning of "posits."

    "...without ascertaining that the presumed cause preceded the presumed effect." — this part of the answer is the problem, because he actually did know that the cause he believes at fault (the hot peppers) was consumed prior to the effect (of getting ill). So, the statements in the stimulus disprove the second half of this answer, meaning (B) cannot be correct.

Ok, now on to answer choice (E). You noted in your comments that you saw Monroe's argument as a mistaken causal argument. I agreed with that. So how does this fit into that view? What answer choice (E) is suggesting is that Monroe overlooked a possible alternate cause. Monroe said that the hot peppers caused the illness, but (E) is saying it could just as well been eating too much. So, this answer still fits the mistaken causality view that we agree is occurring here.

Looking further at (E), the test makers would break it down as follows:

  • We know Monroe has a "generally poor appetite." This means he tends to not eat a lot.

  • At each meal, it's established that he ate large portions:

    • "The first time he ate an extra-large sausage pizza..."

    • "the second time be took full advantage of the all-you-can-eat fried shrimp"

    • "the third time he had two of Tip-Top's giant meatball sandwiches"

When you look at the language in the above statements, it seems that the test makers went out of their way to emphasize that his appetite was low but the meals were all sizable ("extra-large," full advantage of an all-you-can-eat, and a "giant" sandwich). To me, I interpret that as Monroe was eating more than normal.

So, when Monroe goes on to "solely" conclude that the hot peppers at each meal were the cause, he is definitely overlooking the fact that he was eating big meals, which could also have been the cause. Thus, (E) is supported by the facts here.

finally, the wording in the question stem helps cancel out the concern you had about us knowing or not knowing what's a big meal for Monroe. It asks for you to identify the answer that shows a criticism that Monroe's reasoning is "most vulnerable" to, and the large-sized options he was eating could definitely be a cause.

Please let me know if that helps. Thanks!
Dave Killoran
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brettb
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Dave -

Thank you! This definitely helps. It looks like I misinterpreted the phrase "poor appetite" which didn't help me. I took this to mean he didn't eat healthy (poor diet) and was prone to eating large meals frequently. I used my interpretation to quickly eliminate E. After seeing your explanation and re-reading I definitely see where I went wrong, and the context surrounding "poor appetite" doesn't really support my interpretation.

Also, thank you for explaining answer choice B fully. I had to read your explanation a few times and read the answer choice a few times, but I finally grasp exactly what it is saying.
Dave Killoran
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Great, glad I could help! Thanks for letting me know that :-D
Dave Killoran
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mcwoodhill
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So can someone please explain why A is wrong. I can break down the argument as follows:

P: Monroe had three unusually thorough meals and each meal went with hot peppers. After each meal, Monroe became sick.

C: Monroe thinks hot pepper is the only cause.

I struggled really hard between A and E because for me, A seemed to say Monroe arrived at his conclusion too soon by few examples. I swear had I not read through all the choices under time pressure, I would’ve chosen A.

But E seemed more appealing because it implied another cause shown in the premises.

Then I struggled and and wasted lots of time on choosing. The only plausible reason for me to reject A is that since Monroe is talking about in the fixed three cases it was only hot pepper that made him sick, so it is not relevant to assume the accuracy of the examples. Well, I don’t know if it is correct.

By chance and luck, I chose E. But please tell how to make a quicker and more convincing choice in similar situations?
Francis O'Rourke
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It's hard to say whether three meals is "too few." Had Monroe only eaten there once, I would agree that there is not enough evidence. Three times however may be enough to isolate and test one cause of Monroe's illness, if he were a better food scientist.

I can imagine Monroe going back to Tip-Top after his first experience, ordering a healthy portion of sausage pizza with hot peppers, then going back a third time and eating a healthy portion of the sausage pizza without the hot peppers. If he had done this and gotten sick on the first and second visits, but not the third, he would be able to claim that the hot peppers were a likely cause of his illness.

Unfortunately Monroe is a terrible scientist. There is no way to prove that the hot peppers are causing his illness by eating more meals with hot peppers, which is what answer choice (A) indicates he should try to do. Even if he had gotten sick 20 times after 20 meals with hot peppers, his illness still may have been caused by something else: mold growing on dirty plates, fungus in the air vents, etc...

More importantly, there is a glaring error that the stimulus is trying to point out to you: he overate on all three occasions he visited Tip-Top. The first sentence tells you that he has a "generally poor" appetite, and the following sentences explicitly tell you how he went overboard with his orders each time. When a stimulus strongly suggests an alternate cause, the flaw in the causal argument will likely be that there may have been another cause that the argument overlooks.
mcwoodhill
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Thanks, Francis. Very clear explanation and good tactics suggested.
mrcheese
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brettb wrote:Dave -

Thank you! This definitely helps. It looks like I misinterpreted the phrase "poor appetite" which didn't help me. I took this to mean he didn't eat healthy (poor diet) and was prone to eating large meals frequently. I used my interpretation to quickly eliminate E. After seeing your explanation and re-reading I definitely see where I went wrong, and the context surrounding "poor appetite" doesn't really support my interpretation.

Also, thank you for explaining answer choice B fully. I had to read your explanation a few times and read the answer choice a few times, but I finally grasp exactly what it is saying.



I interpreted "poor appetite" the exact same way. I got B through the process of elimination. B forces so much mental translation that it probably tends to influence people to pick it by the same process that I did.
Malila Robinson
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Hi mrcheese,
Answer B does take a bit of effort to translate so you are right, it is likely that folks leave it as a contender, and then if they rule out all of the other answers, they may choose it by process of elimination.
Glad it makes more sense now though! You'll get it next time.
-Malila