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#2 - For a television program about astrology, investigators

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Complete Question Explanation

Weaken. The correct answer choice is (E)

In this Stimulus, investigators for a television program found 20 volunteers born under the zodiac sign of Gemini to be interviewed and to take a personality test. This test confirmed the preconceived notion that folks born under the sign of Gemini were more sociable and extroverted than the average person. From this, they concluded that one’s astrological birth sign influences one’s personality.

In attacking the Stimulus, one should note some immediate weaknesses in the conclusion: the survey was not scientific; it contains a rather small group (20 people). Does the conclusion follow from the data collected?

The Question Stem reveals a Flaw in the Reasoning question type. Because we pre-identified weaknesses in the reasoning while reading the Stimulus, we are a step ahead of the game.

Answer Choice (A): This answer states that the flaw is because the test was not scored or administered personally by the administrators. So what? This answer choice should be quickly eliminated.

Answer Choice (B): This answer would confirm the reasoning done by the investigators in the Stimulus, although it uses astrologers to confirm that reasoning. Because this answer choice does not involve the reasoning done by the investigators, this answer choice should be disregarded and eliminated.

Answer Choice (C): This answer is a contender. It states that the investigators went into the survey with preconceived ideas and further investigation only confirmed those presuppositions. Since this is something that often occurs I would hold onto this answer choice as a contender.

Answer Choice (D): This answer discusses the proportion of people on the street that are born under the sign of Gemini than in the population as a whole. This would seem to fall under one of our pre-formed answers that the survey is not scientific and that the survey size of 20 people may have been too small but upon further reflection, it becomes so what? So what if there are a larger percentage of people on the street born under the sign of Gemini than in the population at large? This conclusion is about folks born under the sign of Gemini and their personalities, not whether or not they are relatively scarce compared to the population at large.

Answer Choice (E): This is the correct answer choice. It states that folks may not volunteer for the survey unless they are extroverts and sociable; thus there is a predisposition to survey folks who are extroverted and sociable. It’s not the zodiac sign that determines whether or not one is extroverted or sociable; it’s that you are more likely to volunteer to take this survey if you are extroverted or sociable. Comparing our two contenders, Answer Choices (C) and (E), Answer Choice (E) establishes itself as the better choice. Answer Choice (E) is the correct answer choice.
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For my prephrase, I assumed that the participants lied about their astronomical sign, or, because it wasn't scored by the investigators that the producers exaggerated the claims or lied about the scores. Based on my prephrase, I chose answer choice (a).

I eliminated (e) because I figured the study wasn't focused on people who are not sociable and extroverted and therefore was irrelevant.

Can you please explain why my reasoning was incorrect, thanks!
Adam Tyson
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Your prephrase was pretty good, andriana.caban, but it was perhaps a bit too narrow. Since this argument is based on the results of a survey, we should think about all the things that could go wrong with surveys. You hit on one of them - the respondents might not give accurate, truthful responses. But that's not the only potential problem with a survey. Others are:

Problems with who we asked. Did we ask enough people? Were they representative of the overall population of the group about whom we drew conclusions? Our explanation focused mainly on the size of the group, but anything that makes the group unrepresentative would be a problem. Maybe these weren't average Geminis, but special Geminis? Maybe only extroverted Geminis would agree to participate, so the group was skewed towards extroverts?

Problems with what we asked. Were the questions neutral, fair, unbiased? If the questions were biased in some way, that would hurt the value of the survey. There's no suggestion of that here, but if the answer choice suggested that as a possibility, we would have to like it.

Your selection of answer A doesn't really match your prephrase, nor is it one of the typical problems with a survey. The questions being asked by some third party (like a company hired to conduct the survey), or the results being scored by someone else, doesn't mean that anyone had to lie or exaggerate. So what if someone else scored it - they still could have done so accurately, and the data could still be good and useful so long as the group was representative, they gave accurate responses, and the questions were neutral. Answer A does not tell us that the respondents gave inaccurate answers to the questions asked, or that the answers were altered by the people doing the scoring. If anything, having a neutral third party doing the legwork might help to reduce bias on the part of the people doing the research!

Answer E is all about the unrepresentative nature of the people who were surveyed. If anti-social people won't agree to participate, then the population that did agree to participate is not representative of all Geminis! We only surveyed the extroverted, sociable ones, and then concluded that the whole group was sociable and extroverted! In short, E describes a problem with who we asked, which is a classic weakness in questions about surveys.

One last thing: on behalf of introverts everywhere, we are NOT anti-social! The rest of you just wear us out quickly and we need to go be alone for a while to recharge our batteries. We might hide under the bed for a bit, but we'll come back and party with you later.
Adam M. Tyson
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Wow that makes perfect sense now that you explained in more detail!

I think I was making assumptions about answer choice A instead of reading it literally. So, I was assuming that because the test was not administered or scored personally by the investigators, respondents could very well exaggerate or lie. However, the answer choice doesn't tell us if the respondents actually lied or not. As such, this doesn't necessarily weaken the author's position, although it could.