Alternate Cause - A weakener or not : GMAT Critical Reasoning (CR)
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# Alternate Cause - A weakener or not

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Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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28 Jun 2013, 02:50
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Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and most of us would also know the common weakener categories for such arguments. For example: one of the common weakeners is the one which suggests an alternate cause for the effect. Still, at times, we find that these common weakener categories don’t work.

EXERCISE

Before we begin, here is a small exercise for you consisting of three OG questions. Here, you have the question along with only one option statement and you need to find out if that option statement is a valid answer or not. A diligent attempt at the quiz will help you get the maximum out of this article.

1. Journalist: In physics journals, the number of articles reporting the results of experiments involving particle accelerators was lower last year than it had been in previous years. Several of the particle accelerators at major research institutions were out of service the year before last for repairs, so it is likely that the low number of articles was due to the decline in availability of particle accelerators.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously undermines the journalist’s argument?

Recent changes in the editorial policies of several physics journals have decreased the likelihood that articles concerning particle-accelerator research will be accepted for publication.

2. A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns . Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.

3. 12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.

The answer for the quiz is that only in the first argument is the given option statement a valid answer. If you did all the three questions correctly, good job

If, in either question 2 or 3, you marked the option statement as a valid answer choice or found it very attractive, this article will help you understand where you went wrong and why.

UNDERSTANDING THE CONCLUSION

Let’s look back at three arguments and find out their conclusion statements.

Here, I’ll just reword each of the conclusion statements, without obviously changing their meaning, so that we can use them directly for our analysis.

The three conclusion statements can be rewritten as:

If we look at the conclusion statements carefully, we’ll observe that:

1. The first conclusion is of the type: X led to Y. In this conclusion type, we are trying to tell the reason which led to the occurrence of Y. So, obviously Y, an event or occurrence or process, has happened in the past and X, which we say led to Y, must also have happened in the past and before Y occurred.

2. The second and the third conclusions are of the type: X can/will lead to Y. Unlike the first type, here we are not explaining the reason for something that happened in the past. Y may or may not have happened in the past. In this conclusion, we are either presenting a generic case that X can lead to Y or a future prediction that X will lead to Y. The reason for clubbing these categories will become clear as we go through the article.

Now, let’s identify the elements X and Y for each of the conclusion statements:

In the first conclusion, we have

Let’s look at the option statements for these arguments:

As we look at each of these option statements, we see that what each of these is saying that there is an alternate cause/way, say Z, to achieve Y (the effect).

Now, when we look at these option statements and find that there is a Z which also leads to Y, we think that this existence of Z weakens both the conclusion types i.e. X led to Y and X can/will lead to Y. However, as the solutions to the OG questions tell us, that is not correct. Let’s understand this.

EXAMPLE

Let’s consider a simple example in which the argument says that

Can we weaken this statement by saying that

Why? Because the author is not saying that only eating sugar leads to obesity. The author is only saying that eating sugar is one of the ways to get obese. Even from common understanding, we all know that both of these things i.e. eating sugar and eating oil lead to obesity. The fact that eating oil makes you obese has no impact on the likelihood of the fact that eating sugar leads to obesity. In other words, saying that there are multiple ways to achieve the same objective does not weaken the conclusion which only states one of the ways to reach the objective.

MODIFIED EXAMPLE

Now, Let’s look at a modified version of our simple example:

If the argument says that

Can we weaken my statement by saying that

The answer here is Yes. In this argument, we are essentially talking about a specific case i.e. what made Jon obese. Here, it is given knowledge that Jon is obese, what the argument or the conclusion provides is a reason that made Jon obese.

Now, when we make the above statement that Eating oil made Jon obese, we are essentially countering what the argument said. We are essentially saying that eating sugar is not the reason, rather eating oil is. We are creating significant doubt on the truth value of the argument.

At this point, can you understand how our statement did not weaken the original argument but how our statement weakens the modified argument?

The reason is that in the original argument i.e. Eating Sugar leads to obesity is a generic statement that X leads to Y. In such case, saying Z leads to Y does not impact the validity of the argument.
However, in the modified argument, we are talking about a very specific event (Y: obesity of Jon) and trying to explain the reason for the same (X: Eating Sugar). In this case, saying that there is some Z (eating oil) that led to Y weakens the argument because it creates significant doubts on whether eating sugar was the reason or not.

EXAMPLE 2

Let’s take one more example to understand this:

If the argument says that Pollution can cause cancer, then we cannot weaken this statement by saying that UV rays can cause cancer. The fact that UV rays can cause cancer has no impact on the statement that pollution can cause cancer.

However, if the argument says that Joe got cancer because of pollution, then we can definitely weaken the argument by suggesting that Joe got cancer because of exposure to UV rays. This is so because here, we are trying to explain the reason for a specific event i.e. Joe getting cancer. The argument says that the reason is pollution and when we say that the reason is UV rays, we are countering and thus, weakening the argument.

REVISITING EXERCISE ARGUMENTS

With the above understanding in mind, let’s bring back the exercise arguments and see if our understanding works there or not.

ARGUMENT 1
We can see that the first argument is of the type: X led to Y (X: Decline in availability of particle accelerators, Y: low number of articles). So, the argument is trying to explain the reason which led to the occurrence of Y. The argument is talking about a specific case in the past. It says that decline in availability of particle accelerators led to the low number of particles.

The option statement for this argument says that:

Recent changes in the editorial policies of several physics journals have decreased the likelihood that articles concerning particle-accelerator research will be accepted for publication.

This statement presents an alternate cause, Z, which could have led to the low number of articles. So, what this option statement is suggesting is that probably the actual reason for low number of articles is recent changes in the editorial policies of physics journals. By suggesting this, this creates doubt and hence weakens the argument which attributed the reason to decline in availability of particle accelerators.

ARGUMENT 2
The argument 2 is of the type X can lead to Y (X: Mismatched sleeping and waking cycles, Y: jeopardizing the marriage). So, this argument is talking about a generic case that X can lead to Y. Remember, in this argument, Y has not occurred in the past and the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence. The argument is making a generic statement that X can lead to Y.

The option statement for this argument says that:

Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.

The statement presents an alternate route, Z, to reach the same end Y (Z: arguments, Y: jeopardizing the marriage). But just the presence of one more way to reach the end does not weaken the original argument that X can lead to Y. The argument does not say that X (mismatched sleeping and waking cycles) is the only way to Y (jeopardize the marriage). If there are other ways to do so, it does not impact the argument.

ARGUMENT 3
The argument 3 is of the type: X will lead to Y (X: Weak pundra, Y: similarly sized increase in exports) So, this argument is talking about a future case that X will lead to Y. Remember, in this argument, Y has not occurred in the past and the argument is not trying to explain the reasons for its occurrence. The argument is making a futuristic statement that X will lead to Y.

The option statement for this argument says that:

A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies

The statement presents an alternate route, Z, to reach the same end Y ( Z: A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants, Y: similar sized increase in exports). Here again, just the presence of one more way to reach the end does not weaken the argument that X will lead to Y. The argument does not say that only X will lead to Y. If there are other ways to reach Y, it does not impact the argument.

TAKE AWAYS

1. “X leads/can lead/will lead to Y” allows the possibility of an alternate route, Z, to reach the effect, Y. Therefore, an option statement presenting an alternate route does not weaken this conclusion type.
2. “X led to Y” is presenting a reason (X) for a specific occurrence in the past (Y). An option statement suggesting an alternate cause, Z, which led to Y, creates doubts on the conclusion and thus, weakens the argument.

Thank you
Chiranjeev Singh
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Alternate Cause - a weakener or not.pdf [569.93 KiB]

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Last edited by egmat on 31 Jul 2013, 11:06, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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28 Jun 2013, 21:58
if you can point some more examples to practice in OG , GMATPREP or with some of your own questions here, it will still add more value to the article
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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28 Jun 2013, 23:04
Chiranjeev, Great Article ! In fact, I was surprised to see the content as it is similar to one I have created for myself based on the e-gmat course and OG questions ,and interestingly I use the same methodology to create some rules..

1)

Procedure ---------------------------Cause ------ > Negative effect / result ( will happen )

Weekend that provide alternate solution to reduce the effect ,however following the procedure.

Eg. Extinction of a species.

2)

X ------------------- > Cause ---------- > Y ( has happened )

Weaken choice will be some other factor Z that can also cause Y, if ‘Y because of X’ is in the conclusion.

EG. Coffee Consumption decline

I am glad to see this post as it confirmed my understanding.
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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30 Jun 2013, 05:18
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After reading this article i crossed a question which kinda applies this concept in a GMATPREP Q.

Kernland imposes a high tariff on the export of unprocessed cashew nuts in order to
ensure that the nuts are sold to domestic processing plants. If the tariff were lifted and
unprocessed cashews were sold at world market prices, more farmers could profit by
growing cashews. However, since all the processing plants are in urban areas, removing
the tariff would seriously hamper the government’s effort to reduce urban unemployment
over the next five years.
Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?
A. Some of the by-products of processing cashews are used for manufacturing paints
and plastics.
B. Other countries in which cashews are processed subsidize their processing plants.
C. More people in Kernland are engaged in farming cashews than in processing
them.
D. Buying unprocessed cashews at lower than world market prices enables cashew
processors in Kernland to sell processed nuts at competitive prices.
E. A lack of profitable crops is driving an increasing number of small farmers in
Kernland off their land and into the cities.

Here the conclusion is removingthe tariff would seriously hamper the government’s effort to reduce urban unemployment
over the next five years.
the conclusion is of type X would lead to y type and the answer choice E gives an alternate cause of the unemployment increase
Since the conclusion uses would, which indicates that event occured in past but we are mention about this event at present.
since the event happened in past, if we give an alternate cause it breaks the conclusion.
In case if the conclusion is written in a way "the tariff will seriously hamper the government’s effort to reduce urban unemployment over the next five years---> then the correct answer E will not shatter the concuison right by giving an alternate cause?
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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30 Jun 2013, 19:11
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Hi Skamal7 and Vikas,

Thank you for the appreciation.

@Skamal7: You have cited a very relevant question here. Thank you.

As I look at your analysis, I can see that there are some gaps in the understanding. Let's try to understand these.

Firstly, 'would' does not indicate that the event happened in the past. "Removal of tariffs" has not happened; it may happen in the future. Refer to this page for different uses of "would": http://www.ecenglish.com/learnenglish/l ... -use-would

In the present context, the use of "would" is the third kind of use of "would" (conditional sentences) as described on this page.

Now, with the understanding that we are talking about a future event, not a past event, we are also clear that even if we replace "would" by "will", it will not make a difference.

However, then, why is option E the correct choice?

The answer is not that it provides an alternate cause. The answer is that it says that the current scenario is leading to urban unemployment and by doing this, it weakens the conclusion that the changed scenario (with tariffs removed) will lead to increased urban unemployment.

In terms of X and Y, the conclusion says that X will lead to Y (X: removal of tariffs, Y: urban unemployment).Option E weakens this by indicating that by not doing anything (i.e. with the status quo of high tariffs), we'll have more urban employment. This indicates that X will probably lead to reduction in Y, than increase in Y.
(Here, Y is not an event which will happen or not happen. It is a continuous figure which may increase or decrease).

Now, suppose, we were given an alternate cause/route of increasing urban unemployment:

A lack of funds available for training the unemployed youth in the urban areas is leading to their continued unemployment.

This option provides an alternate way for unemployment in urban areas i.e. lack of funds for training. Would this weaken the argument?

The answer is No. This is what the article tells.

The important point is to understand option E. It does not provide an alternate cause; it talks of the current scenario and suggests that X will possibly lead to reduction in Y, than an increase in Y.

Does this help?

Thanks
Chiranjeev
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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30 Jun 2013, 19:25
E-gmat,

Thanks for your insightful analysis... You guys rock in this forum
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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30 Jun 2013, 21:07
Hi E-gmat,

I clearly understood your explanation indicating that option E is not the alt cause for Y.

Does option E weaken the conclusion by indicating that X (removal of tariffs) may or may not have an effect on Y (to reduce unemployment)?
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Re: Almost all of us would have heard of causal arguments and [#permalink]

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30 Jun 2013, 22:44
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amyotun wrote:
Hi E-gmat,

I clearly understood your explanation indicating that option E is not the alt cause for Y.

Does option E weaken the conclusion by indicating that X (removal of tariffs) may or may not have an effect on Y (to reduce unemployment)?

Hi,

In my opinion, option E goes beyond indicating that X may not have an effect on Y. It indicates that X may lead to reduction in Y (unemployment). In essence, it says that a lack of profitable crops is leading to increasing unemployment in urban areas. So, if we give farmers another profitable crop (i.e. a direct outcome of X - removal of tariffs) in the form of cashews, then a section of the unemployed farmers will get employed and therefore, the unemployment should get lessened.

To conclusively say whether removal of tariffs would increase unemployment or not, we would need to compare:
1. employment generated because of availability of cashew as a profitable crop to grow
2. unemployment generated in domestic cashew processing plants

But we need not get into this comparison, we don't need to be conclusively sure. A doubt has been created by option E and that makes it a valid weakener.

Does this help?

Thanks
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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05 Jul 2013, 02:16
Dear Chiranjeev,

My response in italics

2.

I think the distinction you make in your post is not sound. A weaken question typically requires us to reduce the strength of the premise or dilute the validity of the conclusion. You do not have to negate it.

A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns . Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.

The option you have mentioned is not a good alternate cause. The premise here is: Partners can have mismatched sleeping and waking cycles.
Conclusion: This mismatch causes arguments that can jeopardize marriage.

The option mentioned is: Those who have matching sleeping and waking cycles also have arguments. Conclusion: These arguments can jeopardize marriage.

So it is not really an alternate cause. Both say arguments jeopardize marriage.

Again look at this argument:

3. 12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.

Premise here is: Currency is weak. conclusion: Exports will improve

In the option mentioned the premise is: Efficiency of manufacturing plants high. Conclusion: Exports will improve

But notice, if the question had been what would weaken this argument this option is indeed right because you do not have to weaken the currency to increase the exports. But the question asks us to attack the politicians' recommendation. So we need to weaken the validity of that particular argument and for that reason only the option mentioned turns out to be incorrect.

So an alternate cause does weaken an argument. Remember we are not trying to negate the argument but only bring down its force.

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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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05 Jul 2013, 03:50
Dear Srinivasan,

Let me respond to your concerns.

SravnaTestPrep wrote:
Dear Chiranjeev,

My response in italics

2.

I think the distinction you make in your post is not sound. A weaken question typically requires us to reduce the strength of the premise or dilute the validity of the conclusion. You do not have to negate it.

SravnaTestPrep wrote:

A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns . Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.

The option you have mentioned is not a good alternate cause. The premise here is: Partners can have mismatched sleeping and waking cycles.
Conclusion: This mismatch causes arguments that can jeopardize marriage.

The option mentioned is: Those who have matching sleeping and waking cycles also have arguments. Conclusion: These arguments can jeopardize marriage.

So it is not really an alternate cause. Both say arguments jeopardize marriage.

I am not sure what you mean by good alternate cause. This is an official question and the objective of bringing this question in this article is to tackle a common doubt faced by the students. I am not really worried about good or bad alternate causes.

Secondly, the conclusion that you have drawn "This mismatch causes arguments that can jeopardize marriage" - this conclusion has two levels of cause and effect:
Mismatch of sleeping and waking cycles -> arguments -> jeopardizing of marriage

If you look at the option statement now, it says that couples having same sleeping and waking cycles also have arguments which lead to arguments which further lead to jeopardizing of marriage. So, the option does indicate that there is an alternate way (other than different cycles) for couples to get into arguments.

SravnaTestPrep wrote:

Again look at this argument:

3. 12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's product a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.

Premise here is: Currency is weak. conclusion: Exports will improve

In the option mentioned the premise is: Efficiency of manufacturing plants high. Conclusion: Exports will improve

But notice, if the question had been what would weaken this argument this option is indeed right because you do not have to weaken the currency to increase the exports. But the question asks us to attack the politicians' recommendation. So we need to weaken the validity of that particular argument and for that reason only the option mentioned turns out to be incorrect.

So an alternate cause does weaken an argument. Remember we are not trying to negate the argument but only bring down its force.

In the given argument, neither "Currency is weak" is a premise nor "Exports will improve" is a conclusion. I would suggest that you read the entire argument again.

Thank you.
Chiranjeev Singh
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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05 Jul 2013, 05:11
egmat wrote:
Dear Srinivasan,

Let me respond to your concerns.

I am not sure what you mean by good alternate cause. This is an official question and the objective of bringing this question in this article is to tackle a common doubt faced by the students. I am not really worried about good or bad alternate causes.

Secondly, the conclusion that you have drawn "This mismatch causes arguments that can jeopardize marriage" - this conclusion has two levels of cause and effect:
Mismatch of sleeping and waking cycles -> arguments -> jeopardizing of marriage

If you look at the option statement now, it says that couples having same sleeping and waking cycles also have arguments which lead to arguments which further lead to jeopardizing of marriage. So, the option does indicate that there is an alternate way (other than different cycles) for couples to get into arguments.

The argument doesn't state that couples with same sleeping and waking cycles do not have violent arguments, only that they have less violent arguments. That fact has already been conceded in the argument. So the option doesn't present any new information and cannot be an alternate cause.

Quote:
In the given argument, neither "Currency is weak" is a premise nor "Exports will improve" is a conclusion. I would suggest that you read the entire argument again.

What according to you is the conclusion and the premise on which the conclusion is based?

Regards,
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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05 Jul 2013, 16:20
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An alternate cause cannot be a weakener when the argument itself allows for alternate causes

Look at this example:

A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns . Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

The conclusion is : different sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage. The argument itself allows for more than one cause for the result. In this case an alternate cause cannot be a weakener. We have to show in this case that the conclusion doesn't logically follow from the premise i.e. we have to directly attack the argument. So we have to show that mismatched sleeping and waking cycle cannot be a cause.

Now look at the other example:

12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

Here again the argument should be directly attacked because the question asks us to weaken the given recommendation only. That is we have to show that exports will not improve even if the currency is weakened.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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09 Jul 2013, 17:50
SravnaTestPrep wrote:
An alternate cause cannot be a weakener when the argument itself allows for alternate causes

Look at this example:

A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns . Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

The conclusion is : different sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage. The argument itself allows for more than one cause for the result. In this case an alternate cause cannot be a weakener. We have to show in this case that the conclusion doesn't logically follow from the premise i.e. we have to directly attack the argument. So we have to show that mismatched sleeping and waking cycle cannot be a cause.

Now look at the other example:

12 years ago and again 5 years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.

Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

Here again the argument should be directly attacked because the question asks us to weaken the given recommendation only. That is we have to show that exports will not improve even if the currency is weakened.

Dear Srinivasan,

I understand what you are saying and as you should see, the article, more or less, talks about the same thing that an alternate cause cannot be a weakener in these questions. I can see that you understand this concept but the article was not written for people who already understand this; the article has been written for students who face difficulty in such questions.

Regards,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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10 Jul 2013, 19:19
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I am not big fan of formal approach for solving GMAT weakening / strengthening --- a formal approach takes a different path altogether to what GMAT intends to test through such questions on CR. Whole reason of such questions on GMAT is to test common world understanding of things. Weakeners, strengtheners, evaluate the argument, and paradox questions -- if we try to solve them through a formal approach, we might get some right, while we might get many a wrong too. GMAT is exam for future business leaders, who need to be street smart with their logical thinking that is needed when in the business field. Such questions are the way GMAT tests these skills.

Coming back to the post here.

There are definitely a few good key takeaways, but do not build such takeaways on a formal deduction grounds.

My suggestions and takeaways:

1) In real life scenario: Take weakener as two people with opposing views discussing on something. While strengthener as two people resonating with each other are discussing on something. Evaluate an argument can be seen as peoples' boss trying to find a balance between these two people who have opposing views. In all cases, you can take person A as the author of the argument, while person B as yourself. As person B, you just need to wear a different thinking hat for different questions -- but there are only 6 thinking hats (Edward Bono).

2) Arguments talking about a past event can probably be weakened by a different (alternate) reasoning than given in the argument. For an already occurred event, author has specified one reason for the event in argument. Your aim more often shall be to bring down the argument reasoning by providing an an alternate reasoning from your external knowledge (scope being the answer choices), as person B. This works very well in real life scenarios too. Assume, person A says project ABC was successful because Ann worked so hard and did 70% of the project work. As person B, your reasoning can be - but Ann was on vacation for 50% of the project duration - it was his team who made sure Ann's absence does not hurt the project.

3) If some argument is predicting a future event - it would definitely be wrong idea to weaken it with another prediction. It's like Person A says stocks are going to rise for XYZ reason, and then person B says stocks are going to fall for ABC reason -- which one to believe -- no one. That's why more often, for a future event arguments, alternate reasoning might be bad idea. You can weaken by targeting the line of reasoning - giving certain evidence that questions the basis of reasoning on which argument is built. In most cases, you are trying to play smart chap, as person B, here - you are saying to person A: oh, you might be right, but see this is what is happening right now (certain evidence) - then may be what you (person A) said is wrong. In real life scenario, if person A says project ABC will be successful as Ann who has made the last project successful is also part of the team. Person B can not weaken such argument by saying Mary (a new joinee) who has made a successful project in her last company will be the key reason for project success -- both might be right, both might be wrong.
Let's discuss it through some official examples.

Quote:
Example 1:
A study of marital relationships in which one partner's sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of the other partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns. Thus, mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.
Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?
(A) Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also occasionally have arguments that can jeopardize the couple's marriage.
(B) The sleeping and waking cycles of individuals tend to vary from season to season.
(C) The individuals who have sleeping and waking cycles that differ significantly from those of their spouses tend to argue little with colleagues at work.
(D) People in unhappy marriages have been found to express hostility by adopting a different sleeping and waking cycle from that of their spouses.
(E) According to a recent study, most people's sleeping and waking cycles can be controlled and modified easily.

Here choice D, a correct choice, is giving a sound evidence (please note it's not a reasoning) that directly questions the basis on which author has built his argument.

Quote:
Example 2:
Twelve years ago and again five years ago, there were extended periods when the Darfir Republic's currency, the pundra, was weak: its value was unusually low relative to the world's most stable currencies. Both times a weak pundra made Darfir's manufactured products a bargain on world markets, and Darfir's exports were up substantially. Now some politicians are saying that, in order to cause another similarly sized increase in exports, the government should allow the pundra to become weak again.
Which of the following, if true, provides the government with the strongest grounds to doubt that the politicians' recommendation, if followed, will achieve its aim?

(A) Several of the politicians now recommending that the pundra be allowed to become weak made that same recommendation before each of the last two periods of currency weakness.
(B) After several decades of operating well below peak capacity, Darfir's manufacturing sector is now operating at near-peak levels.
The country won't be able to meet the increased demand for goods if its factories are already operating at a peak. Hence no increase in revenue from exports.
(C) The economy of a country experiencing a rise in exports will become healthier only if the country's currency is strong or the rise in exports is significant.
(D) Those countries whose manufactured products compete with Darfir's on the world market all currently have stable currencies.
(E) A sharp improvement in the efficiency of Darfir's manufacturing plants would make Darfir's products a bargain on world markets even without any weakening of the pundra relative to other currencies.

Here choice B, the correct choice, is giving sound evidence why such a path might not be fruitful.

Quote:
Example 3:
Kernland imposes a high tariff on the export of unprocessed cashew nuts in order to ensure that the nuts are sold to domestic processing plants. If the tariff were lifted and unprocessed cashews were sold at world market prices, more farmers could profit by growing cashews. However, since all the processing plants are in urban areas, removing the tariff would seriously hamper the government’s effort to reduce urban unemployment over the next five years.
Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument?
A. Some of the by-products of processing cashews are used for manufacturing paints and plastics.
B. Other countries in which cashews are processed subsidize their processing plants.
C. More people in Kernland are engaged in farming cashews than in processing them.
D. Buying unprocessed cashews at lower than world market prices enables cashew processors in Kernland to sell processed nuts at competitive prices.
E. A lack of profitable crops is driving an increasing number of small farmers in Kernland off their land and into the cities.

Here choice E, the correct choice, is giving sound evidence why government decision might not hurt government's plan to reduce unemployment.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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11 Jul 2013, 04:11
Hi Shailendra,

First of all, I appreciate your post - the post is really clean and you have really brought forward your views in an interesting manner. I do share some of your thoughts but I do have some differences too. Let me share my views.

shailendrasharma wrote:
I am not big fan of formal approach for solving GMAT weakening / strengthening --- a formal approach takes a different path altogether to what GMAT intends to test through such questions on CR. Whole reason of such questions on GMAT is to test common world understanding of things. Weakeners, strengtheners, evaluate the argument, and paradox questions -- if we try to solve them through a formal approach, we might get some right, while we might get many a wrong too. GMAT is exam for future business leaders, who need to be street smart with their logical thinking that is needed when in the business field. Such questions are the way GMAT tests these skills.
I am not really sure what you mean by "formal approach" here. If that means using formal logic, then I agree with you. If that means using structured approach, then I disagree with you. If that means something else, I would like to know before I respond.

shailendrasharma wrote:
Coming back to the post here.

There are definitely a few good key takeaways, but do not build such takeaways on a formal deduction grounds.
Here also, I would like to know what you mean by "formal deduction grounds" - I have not used any formal logic in the article.

shailendrasharma wrote:

My suggestions and takeaways:

1) In real life scenario: Take weakener as two people with opposing views discussing on something. While strengthener as two people resonating with each other are discussing on something. Evaluate an argument can be seen as peoples' boss trying to find a balance between these two people who have opposing views. In all cases, you can take person A as the author of the argument, while person B as yourself. As person B, you just need to wear a different thinking hat for different questions -- but there are only 6 thinking hats (Edward Bono).
That is a very helpful suggestion and actually works for a lot of students. I completely agree with this.

shailendrasharma wrote:
2) Arguments talking about a past event can probably be weakened by a different (alternate) reasoning than given in the argument. For an already occurred event, author has specified one reason for the event in argument. Your aim more often shall be to bring down the argument reasoning by providing an an alternate reasoning from your external knowledge (scope being the answer choices), as person B. This works very well in real life scenarios too. Assume, person A says project ABC was successful because Ann worked so hard and did 70% of the project work. As person B, your reasoning can be - but Ann was on vacation for 50% of the project duration - it was his team who made sure Ann's absence does not hurt the project.
Even though I agree with your understanding but the example weakener you have given is not the kind of weakener that we see. We only see an alternate cause (in your example: "it was the hard work of my team") and not a statement which weakens the existing reason and provides an alternate cause too (Ann was on vacation and our team worked hard). Rather both of these: "Ann was on vacation" and "our team worked hard" are valid weakeners independently.

shailendrasharma wrote:
3) If some argument is predicting a future event - it would definitely be wrong idea to weaken it with another prediction. It's like Person A says stocks are going to rise for XYZ reason, and then person B says stocks are going to fall for ABC reason -- which one to believe -- no one.
Your example here is structurally different from what I talk in this article. In this article, I am talking about a case in which person B says stocks are going to rise for ABC reason.

shailendrasharma wrote:
That's why more often, for a future event arguments, alternate reasoning might be bad idea. You can weaken by targeting the line of reasoning - giving certain evidence that questions the basis of reasoning on which argument is built. In most cases, you are trying to play smart chap, as person B, here - you are saying to person A: oh, you might be right, but see this is what is happening right now (certain evidence) - then may be what you (person A) said is wrong. In real life scenario, if person A says project ABC will be successful as Ann who has made the last project successful is also part of the team. Person B can not weaken such argument by saying Mary (a new joinee) who has made a successful project in her last company will be the key reason for project success -- both might be right, both might be wrong.
I would like to disagree with this example too. If I am saying X will be the key reason for project's success and you say that Y will be the key reason, then you are definitely weakening my argument. The essence of the argument you have quoted is very different from "A will lead to B" argument discussed in the article.

Regards,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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11 Jul 2013, 08:27
Thanks Chiranjeev.

1) First of all I appreciate that you liked some of my thoughts.

2) Second, my intent of this post was not to challenge your methodology or prove my methodology is superior - but instead I wanted to provide my views and takeaways from your post and add my values to some of the points - takeaways and suggestions that will help more people than harm. I am also an e-gmat customer - and I value the guidance provided by e-gmat.

3) Coming back to the specific points you have challenged.

a) Formal approach / formal deduction is same as formal logic.

b) Structured and process oriented approach is key to success on GMAT and if someone is questioning that - then he will be insane -- so be rest assured I did not meant to say "structured approach" by using word "formal approach".

c)

egmat wrote:
shailendrasharma wrote:
2) Arguments talking about a past event can probably be weakened by a different (alternate) reasoning than given in the argument. For an already occurred event, author has specified one reason for the event in argument. Your aim more often shall be to bring down the argument reasoning by providing an an alternate reasoning from your external knowledge (scope being the answer choices), as person B. This works very well in real life scenarios too. Assume, person A says project ABC was successful because Ann worked so hard and did 70% of the project work. As person B, your reasoning can be - but Ann was on vacation for 50% of the project duration - it was his team who made sure Ann's absence does not hurt the project.

Even though I agree with your understanding but the example weakener you have given is not the kind of weakener that we see. We only see an alternate cause (in your example: "it was the hard work of my team") and not a statement which weakens the existing reason and provides an alternate cause too (Ann was on vacation and our team worked hard). Rather both of these: "Ann was on vacation" and "our team worked hard" are valid weakeners independently.

Does it really matter whether GMAT uses half of the sentence as weakener or the full ? I am just alluding towards what is real world thinking in this case. GMAT might use alternate reasoning or weakening the existing reason or both. In my opinion, it really doesn't matter - important is to realize answers follow real world logic.

egmat wrote:
shailendrasharma wrote:
shailendrasharma wrote:
3) If some argument is predicting a future event - it would definitely be wrong idea to weaken it with another prediction. It's like Person A says stocks are going to rise for XYZ reason, and then person B says stocks are going to fall for ABC reason -- which one to believe -- no one.

Your example here is structurally different from what I talk in this article. In this article, I am talking about a case in which person B says stocks are going to rise for ABC reason.

My real world reasoning does not allow two predictions mentioned simultaneously but one having more weightage that it can weaken prediction in the argument. I am not sure if GMAT has some official examples that represent what you say.

egmat wrote:
shailendrasharma wrote:
That's why more often, for a future event arguments, alternate reasoning might be bad idea. You can weaken by targeting the line of reasoning - giving certain evidence that questions the basis of reasoning on which argument is built. In most cases, you are trying to play smart chap, as person B, here - you are saying to person A: oh, you might be right, but see this is what is happening right now (certain evidence) - then may be what you (person A) said is wrong. In real life scenario, if person A says project ABC will be successful as Ann who has made the last project successful is also part of the team. Person B can not weaken such argument by saying Mary (a new joinee) who has made a successful project in her last company will be the key reason for project success -- both might be right, both might be wrong.

I would like to disagree with this example too. If I am saying X will be the key reason for project's success and you say that Y will be the key reason, then you are definitely weakening my argument. The essence of the argument you have quoted is very different from "A will lead to B" argument discussed in the article.

If person B is saying Y will be key reason and if such argument can be taken as weakener - then only one thing can be inferred person B has more authority ==> it would be interesting insight to learn, if there are certain official questions that represent this.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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15 Jul 2013, 01:16
Hi Shailendra,

I agree with many of your points here. However, let me throw some clarity on a few points.

shailendrasharma wrote:
Does it really matter whether GMAT uses half of the sentence as weakener or the full ? I am just alluding towards what is real world thinking in this case. GMAT might use alternate reasoning or weakening the existing reason or both. In my opinion, it really doesn't matter - important is to realize answers follow real world logic.
The reason I objected to your example is that you are posting in response to the article, which is only talking about one kind of weakeners - alternate cause. Otherwise, your logic is correct as I agreed that both parts are valid weakeners.

shailendrasharma wrote:
My real world reasoning does not allow two predictions mentioned simultaneously but one having more weightage that it can weaken prediction in the argument. I am not sure if GMAT has some official examples that represent what you say.
Again Shailendra, the reason I have objected is that you are responding to an article. In such a case, I would expect that you follow the same structure of example; otherwise, rather than helping students, it would create confusion among the students. We both will be talking about different structures of arguments and saying different things and not all students would appreciate that. So, I thought that all the discussion on this article should remain within the context of the article.
Also, all the three questions quoted in the article are official examples.

shailendrasharma wrote:
If person B is saying Y will be key reason and if such argument can be taken as weakener - then only one thing can be inferred person B has more authority ==> it would be interesting insight to learn, if there are certain official questions that represent this.
This happens all the time in weaken questions. IF the passage says X led to Y, then if the option statement says Z led to Y, the option statement is weakening the argument. We don't infer here that option statement has a higher authority than the passage or not. Similarly, if we are talking what will be the "key reason" - which, by the terminology used, can be only one reason, then in such a case, saying Y will be the key reason is a weakener to the statement that X will be the key reason.

I don't know whether that ends our discussion or not but overall, it was a very fruitful discussion and I really complement you Shailendra for your insights and such in-depth explanations.

Thank you

Regards,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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24 Jul 2013, 10:25
A study of marital relationships in which one partner’s sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of the other
partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than
do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns. Thus,
mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

(A) Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also occasionally
have arguments that can jeopardize the couple’s marriage.
(B) The sleeping and waking cycles of individuals tend to vary from season to season.
(C) The individuals who have sleeping and waking cycles that differ signiﬁ cantly from those of their spouses
tend to argue little with colleagues at work.
(D) People in unhappy marriages have been found to express hostility by adopting a different sleeping and
waking cycle from that of their spouses.
(E) According to a recent study, most people’s sleeping and waking cycles can be controlled and modiﬁ ed
easily.

The conclusion states that different waking and sleeping cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage. The argument is not a historic cause and effect argument.i.e X led to Y. Rather it is of the type X can lead/will lead to Y.

The author reaches the conclusion by citing a case when it is found that married couples who have mismatched sleeping cycles have much more arguments than do couples with similar sleeping and waking cycles.
X- mismatched sleeping cycles.
Y-more arguments-> jeopardizing the marriage.

choice A presents an alternate cause i.e married couples with similar sleep cycles also have arguments. Since, the argument does not state that mismatched sleeping cycles is the only cause for arguments,jeoparizing the marriage, we cannot take this to be a weakener.

choice D ,on the other hand that, states that the reverse effect is the weakener. i.e because of existing hostility, the couples decided to adopt different waking and sleeping times to stay as much out of each other's way as possible. In this case, this choice works as a weakener,stating the reversed relationship.

The Question that I have is merely that are arguments of the type 2 that you mentioned also c&e arguments.The only difference is in the context that they present(X led to Y, X can lead to Y) and that an alternate cause will not serve as weakener, however demonstration of the reverse effect can serve as a weakener.
Just to double check the concept of C&E.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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31 Jul 2013, 01:04
12bhang wrote:
A study of marital relationships in which one partner’s sleeping and waking cycles differ from those of the other
partner reveals that such couples share fewer activities with each other and have more violent arguments than
do couples in a relationship in which both partners follow the same sleeping and waking patterns. Thus,
mismatched sleeping and waking cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the argument above?

(A) Married couples in which both spouses follow the same sleeping and waking patterns also occasionally
have arguments that can jeopardize the couple’s marriage.
(B) The sleeping and waking cycles of individuals tend to vary from season to season.
(C) The individuals who have sleeping and waking cycles that differ signiﬁ cantly from those of their spouses
tend to argue little with colleagues at work.
(D) People in unhappy marriages have been found to express hostility by adopting a different sleeping and
waking cycle from that of their spouses.
(E) According to a recent study, most people’s sleeping and waking cycles can be controlled and modiﬁ ed
easily.

The conclusion states that different waking and sleeping cycles can seriously jeopardize a marriage. The argument is not a historic cause and effect argument.i.e X led to Y. Rather it is of the type X can lead/will lead to Y.

The author reaches the conclusion by citing a case when it is found that married couples who have mismatched sleeping cycles have much more arguments than do couples with similar sleeping and waking cycles.
X- mismatched sleeping cycles.
Y-more arguments-> jeopardizing the marriage.

choice A presents an alternate cause i.e married couples with similar sleep cycles also have arguments. Since, the argument does not state that mismatched sleeping cycles is the only cause for arguments,jeoparizing the marriage, we cannot take this to be a weakener.

choice D ,on the other hand that, states that the reverse effect is the weakener. i.e because of existing hostility, the couples decided to adopt different waking and sleeping times to stay as much out of each other's way as possible. In this case, this choice works as a weakener,stating the reversed relationship.

The Question that I have is merely that are arguments of the type 2 that you mentioned also c&e arguments.The only difference is in the context that they present(X led to Y, X can lead to Y) and that an alternate cause will not serve as weakener, however demonstration of the reverse effect can serve as a weakener.
Just to double check the concept of C&E.

Hi,

Let's tackle this.

X: mismatched sleeping and waking cycles
Y: seriously jeopardize a marriage

What is the basis of the argument?

The basis is that X led to Y in the past. This basis is not directly stated in the passage but is assumed by the author because both X and Y have occurred together.

Now, if we suggest that Y could have led to X, then we are weakening the basis of the conclusion. Therefore, option D is correct.

So, the reverse effect is a weakener here because the assumption is X led to Y and option D weakens the assumption.

If the basis of the conclusion was not "X led to Y", then reverse effect would not be a weakener.

Thanks,
Chiranjeev
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not [#permalink]

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31 Jul 2013, 01:11
Chiranjeev,
This article helped me clear up a lot of confusion. But I still don't understand why are we being generous towards present/future tense in causality?
As you explained that with the present tense:
If 'Eating sugar leads to obesity',
Then 'Eating oil leads to obesity' doesn't weaken the previous statement because the author is not saying that only eating sugar leads to obesity.

Applying similar line of reasoning to following statements:
Here also the author is not saying that only eating sugar made Jon obese. He could very well have meant that eating sugar was one of the reasons that made Jon obese.

Looking forward to your reply. Also I would appreciate if you remember any official examples displaying the above two concepts.
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Re: Alternate Cause - A weakener or not   [#permalink] 31 Jul 2013, 01:11

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