LSAT and Law School Admissions Forum

Get expert LSAT preparation and law school admissions advice from PowerScore Test Preparation.

  • Posts: 35
  • Joined: Aug 05, 2016
I figured E was valid because if the gene variant wasn't exclusive to strictly "thrill seeking behavior" then this distorts the functioning of the gene variant within the research thus potentially nullifying the results. However on the flip side it now seems that if the gene variant is correlated with other types of behavior than it could actually enhance the scientist's conclusion that the gene leads to impulsive or thrill seeking behavior.
Is my line of reasoning correct here?
 Claire Horan
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 408
  • Joined: Apr 18, 2016
I think your reasoning leaves out one of the key phrases: "in addition."

(E) The gene variant studied by the scientist is correlated with other types of behavior in addition to thrill-seeking behavior.

If the gene variant causes 500 other effects, these still do not undermine the conclusion that the gene variant causes thrill-seeking behavior. A cause can have many effects, but if the cause still always results in the effect at issue, thrill-seeking behavior, the causal connection is not undermined.
  • Posts: 113
  • Joined: Jul 06, 2017
I doubted (B) at first because I thought the choice didn't really call into question the scientist's argument, which was about causation. It simply denied a premise that doesn't really get at the question of cause. Instead, I chose (D), because I thought that if the characteristic were genetic, then it wouldn't make sense to see behavior that existed for a person as a child not manifest itself for the person as an adult, and vice versa. Genes, after all, don't change as we age. And that would directly attack the causal force of the argument.

I've made this sort of mistake before, passing over a weakening-premise choice because I thought it didn't really attack the force of the argument (in this case, causation). I understand that premises are parts of an argument, but do you have any advice on how I might correct this tendency?
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 271
  • Joined: Jun 12, 2017
Hi nM2,

This one is definitely trickier. Remember, that the author observes a correlation between impulsive behavior in children and a certain gene variant. She then notes the similarity between children's impulsive behavior and adult thrill-seeking behavior and concludes that the gene variant causes thrill-seeking behavior.

In this situation, an attack on the correlation (to reliably identify "impulsive behavior") though a bad data argument becomes an attack on causation predicated on it. If we don't know what impulsive behavior actually is, how can we say that it's caused by anything? And furthermore, how do we know that it's something that is similar to thrill-seeking behavior in adults? Answer (B) raises multiple issuess with the multiple flaws in the scientist's correlative argument including her conclusion about causality.

Answer Option (D) does attack some of the correlation that the premises raise, but in the end, ask this: Is an attack on my opponent's proposed correlation stronger than an attack on her correlation and causation? That's why Answer (B) is winning the day here.

Thanks for the great question!
  • Posts: 113
  • Joined: Jul 06, 2017
Thank you! That helps.
  • Posts: 103
  • Joined: May 21, 2019
I have multiple questions on this question. I initially thought "an inclination toward thrill-seeking behavior" in the conclusion refers to "impulsive behavior in children" in the premise due to the similarities they share and the fact that children will eventually grow into adulthood. Thinking that the flaw is a classic correlation to causation, I went ahead looking for an answer choice describing this flaw. I thought (E) is suggesting that correlation are commonplace so it is unrealistic to pin down a causation each and every time you spot correlation. In other words, to pin down causation we would need further evidence besides mere correlation.

However, previous posts seem to interpret "inclination toward thrill-seeking behavior" as "adult thrill-seeking behavior." In other words, "inclination toward a behavior" is the behavior itself. It somewhat makes sense, since children do not engage in "thrill-seeking behavior," 'cause otherwise the stimulus would just call it as such. Instead, the author relates "impulsive behavior in children" to "adult thrill-seeking behavior." But the way the author connected these two is by stating impulsive behavior in children is "similar to" adult thrill-seeking behavior, which seemingly suggests those are still essentially different types of behaviors. So this is the other blatant flaw that was pointed out by previous posts: though the symptoms/manifestation/behaviors might be the same/similar, the etiology/cause could be quite different.

However, (B), the credited response, did not deal with either of these flaws, but went for a data attack. I've done a few flaw and weaken questions so far and data attack has always been an incorrect answer choice. Thus, I'm wondering what constitutes a successful data attack? I tend to think data attack only gets to the premise, basically saying the premise is not true, without touching upon the link between the premise(s) and the conclusion. The reasons I've learned so far to eliminate a data attack answer choice is to see if there's anything in the stimulus suggesting the data might not be reliable. In other words, if the stimulus is just laying out some claims/facts, you can't just weaken the argument by saying those claims/facts are not reliable. With this line of thinking, I'm wondering if the author gives out any clues to suggest the claim(s) in the premise might not be reliable. Naturally, my eyes land on "similar to adult thrill-seeking behavior." So by using the vague language to describe the "impulsive behavior in children" as "similar to adult thrill-seeking behavior," which also indicates that those might still be totally different things, does the author suggest a data attack is in place?

Also, can (A) and (D) be eliminated because of "many," which is essentially a "some" statement? Is it correct to say "some" statements can never strengthen or weaken arguments because they could very well be describing some outliers, which would not fundamentally affect the reasoning?

Lastly, I eliminated (C) because it talks about "often described by adults as ..." I thought it's not relevant how adults describe certain behavior in children, as they may be wrong. What matters is what the behavior is, from a scientific or factual perspective. Is this a good strategy? Thanks!
 Adam Tyson
PowerScore Staff
  • PowerScore Staff
  • Posts: 3881
  • Joined: Apr 14, 2011
In my experience, blade21, the data attack is a very common way to weaken causal arguments. Not as common as answers involving alternate causes, perhaps, but not so rare as your experience seems to indicate. Any causal argument based on studies, experiments, surveys, or citations to data like numbers and percentages will automatically be open to a data attack, because if the data the author relied on in reaching their conclusion is faulty, then the conclusion is unreliable. The author doesn't have to do anything to suggest that there may be problems with the data; it is the fact that they author relied on data that leave s the argument open to that type of attack.

In this case, if there is no way to distinguish impulsive behavior, then the author's research is built on nonsense, and no conclusions can be properly drawn from it.

"Many" certainly isn't a very powerful word, and doesn't often give us good weaken answers, but it still could. What if many adults with the gene variant do not engage in any thrill-seeking behavior? What if many adults without the gene variant do engage in such behavior? Those would be examples of the cause without the effect or the effect without the cause, so they would be decent weaken answers. A and C are weak thanks to "many," but they are wrong answers because they don't give us alternate causes, cause without effect, etc.

Your analysis of answer C looks good! Who cares how or why adults describe children? That has no bearing on this argument.

Get the most out of your LSAT Prep Plus subscription.

Analyze and track your performance with our Testing and Analytics Package.