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Complete Question Explanation

Resolve the Paradox—#%. The correct answer choice is (B)

The author of this stimulus compares the results of two surveys taken of area L residents (surveys
which were taken ten years apart).

In the survey from ten years ago, most residents were generally satisfied with their conditions,
despite the fact that these conditions were slightly below average.

In the more recent survey, the living conditions in area L are more comparable to those of the
nation as a whole, but most residents of the area now report general dissatisfaction with their living

The stimulus is followed by a Resolve the Paradox question, so we should look for the answer choice
which explains the apparent discrepancy between higher relative living conditions (as compared to
the country overall), and the greater dissatisfaction reported recently by the people of area L.

As is often the case with LSAT questions dealing with numbers and percentages, the information
provided is limited; while the author provides information regarding the relative conditions of area
L and the country as a whole—in the first survey the nation’s average conditions were better than
those in area L; in the second survey the nation’s average conditions were about the same as those
of area L. The problem is that without more specific information regarding the country’s overall
living conditions, there is really no way to tell whether living conditions in area L have improved,
worsened, or stayed the same.

Not every Resolve answer can be easily prephrased, but in this case there appear to be two likely
explanations: either the people have become more difficult to satisfy, or living conditions have
actually gotten worse (in an absolute sense).

Answer choice (A): Different priorities would explain divergence between the opinions of area L
residents and those of surrounding areas, but this choice fails to explain the dissatisfaction among the
people of area L in response to higher relative conditions, so this cannot be the correct answer.

Answer choice (B): This is the correct answer choice. If the average living conditions in the
country as a whole have substantially declined, then the conditions in area L (which are about
the same as those of the country overall) may have declined as well. This answer matches one
of our prephrased explanations from the discussion above, and does help to resolve the apparent
discrepancy in the stimulus.

Answer choice (C): The manner in which optimal living conditions were assessed would not help to
explain why the people of area L have become less satisfied with their living conditions over time, so
this choice fails to resolve the stimulus’ paradox.

Answer choice (D): This choice does not help to explain the increased level of dissatisfaction among
the people of area L despite more equal conditions (as compared to the country as a whole).

Answer choice (E): This answer choice might help to resolve if area L residents were still living
in conditions below those of the national average. But currently the living conditions of area L are
comparable to those of the country overall, so this answer choice would not help to explain the
people’s more recent dissatisfaction.
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I don't understand why B is the correct answer. How could the living conditions have declined substantially in between surveys in area L, when during the first survey they were below the nat'l average and in the later survey the conditions were about the same as the nat'l average. Am I to assume that the nat'l standards also dropped?
 Steve Stein
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Hi ronnieronnie,

Thanks for your question. In that question, the author provides that 10 years ago, Area L residents had living conditions that were slightly below their country's average, but they were generally satisfied. Today, their living conditions are about equal with their country's average, but most are dissatisfied.

The paradox, then, is this: How is it that these residents have become dissatisfied, in spite the fact that they are now at the national average?

Here is the potentially tricky part: what has improved is area L's living conditions when compared with the country's average. What if the country's average conditions have dropped substantially? Then Area L's conditions could have dropped substantially as well.

This is what correct answer choice B provides; if the whole country was doing great ten years ago, then back then even someone below average could have been doing pretty well. If the whole country has now fallen into a depression, then living in the country's average conditions might not be so great. This would explain how Area L resident might be dissatisfied even though they are now doing about as well (or, in this case, as poorly) as the rest of the country.

Tricky! Let me know whether this clears it up--thanks,

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Hi Steve,

That does clear it up!

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hi guys,

Regarding q17 of section 1, preptest 58, how do we choose between options E and B? I found myself selecting E, but then I guess that this does not explain why residents of area L do not have higher satisfaction their present living conditions. But why does option B work? Is it that:

-If the average living conditions in L's country had substantially declined, and the living conditions in L are not about the same as the national average (as option B posits), then living conditions in L's country have also declined.

Is that right?
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I think your explaination for why not choose E is correct. but i do not get your point about B.

I think B is correct because people feel satisfaction with their living stander does not depend on whether the living condition is above the national average. Assuming this: we score the living condition from 0 to 100.
area L national average
10 years ago 80 90
this year 40 40

although 10 years ago, living condition in area L was lower than national average, but it is stiil high,so people feel satiscaction. this year, the national average delined sustantially, therefore, people live in area L dissatisfication even if it is the same as national average.
 Steve Stein
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That one comes down to the fact that the information provided in the stimulus is extremely limited:

In the first survey, they were living below the unknown national average.
In the recent survey, they were living above a new unknown national average.

Now the people are dissatisfied, and answer choice B provides a reason why: if the national average declined significantly, then living above it might not be so great.

It's like if I'm get traded from one baseball team to another:

On the first team, I'm getting paid less than the team's average.
On the second team, I'm getting paid more than that teams average.

If the first team is the New York Yankees, and the second is a local team, then I've probably taken a step down in lifestyle, even if I am getting more than the average guy on the local team...

Numbers and percentages can be tricky--let me know whether this clears it up--thanks!

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Hello again,

Can you please explain why answer choice A is incorrect for #17 of the Sep. 2009 LR Section 1 LSAT? If the wording for choice A were to instead read, "Residents of area L typically value aspects of the living conditions different from aspects of living conditions that are valued by residents of the NATION," would this choice then be correct? It seems that a differing value judgment on their quality of life could explain the discrepancy here.

Thank you!

 Adam Tyson
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I see where you're going with that idea, Angela, and it's a good thought, but ask yourself this: would valuing different aspects automatically resolve this paradox, or would it leave open the possibility of folks in L still feeling bad about their conditions but for different reasons, leaving the paradox intact? To resolve this paradox, we need to overcome the somewhat instinctive belief that things got better in area L and bring in the possibility that things got worse elsewhere. What's the opposite of a rising tide lifting all boats? An outgoing tide strands them all?

This is not unlike a common paradox structure where we see something like "this guy Is considered to be the best at his job, and he has the highest failure rate of everyone who does it". Could be a surgeon, a collection agent, a repairman of some sort - you get the idea. We resolve that by adding that this is the guy who gets all the worst or hardest cases, and that anyone else would have an even higher failure rate if they had to handle those same cases.

Think about that some and let us know if that helps clear it up>
  • Posts: 32
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Hi Adam,

That's a great explanation. Thank you! I understand now that it must automatically resolve the paradox (haven't gotten to this section yet in my course).

Appreciate it!


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