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An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state

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An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has stated that tattoos are an ancient form of body art. Tattoos, she argues, function as a mode of self-identification: the placement and design of tattooed images communicate ideas of central importance to those who bear them. She hypothesizes that tattooing has surged in popularity in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years because of a desire to express individuality despite an increase in the mass production of other forms of personal decoration, such as clothing and jewelry.

Which of the following would be most useful to determine in evaluating the researcher’s hypothesis?


(A) Whether the most popular tattoo designs are mass-produced

(B) Whether there has been in increase in the past 10-15 years in the number of people who wish to express individuality in their physical appearance, but feel that they cannot do so by other means

(C) Whether the ancient civilizations that developed tattoos used them to express individuality

(D) Whether people in Western cultures identify a desire to express individuality

(E) Whether attitudes toward mass-produced clothing and jewelry have changed in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years


Verbal Question of The Day: Day 17: Critical Reasoning


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Originally posted by souvik101990 on 23 May 2017, 10:43.
Last edited by Bunuel on 16 Oct 2018, 04:10, edited 1 time in total.
Renamed the topic and edited the question.
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 23 May 2017, 10:46
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Let's start by identifying the researcher's hypothesis: "tattooing has surged in popularity in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years because of a desire to express individuality despite an increase in the mass production of other forms of personal decoration, such as clothing and jewelry." This hypothesis implies that people in Western cultures have found expressing their individuality with those other forms of personal decoration to be less effective as mass production of those decorations has increased.

Since, according to the author, tattoos function as a mode of self-identification and can be used to communicate ideas of central importance to those who bear them, we can infer that tattoos can also be used to express individuality. If an increase in the mass production of those other decorations, such as clothing and jewelry, has decreased people's ability to express their individuality with those items, perhaps those people have sought other means of expressing their individuality (i.e. using tattoos).

Now that we understand the author's argument, which of the following would be most useful to determine in evaluating the researcher’s hypothesis?

Quote:
(A) Whether the most popular tattoo designs are mass-produced

At first glance, this option is tempting. If clothing and jewelry become less effective means of expressing individuality the more they are mass-produced, maybe the same is true of tattoos? However, just because the most popular tattoo designs are mass produced does not mean that most tattoo designs are mass produced or that mass production of tattoo designs has increased or decreased over the last 10-15 years. Also, if the placement (and not just the design) of tattooed images affects the ideas communicated by those tattoos, then people can still use mass produced tattoo designs to express their individuality. Thus, choice (A) does not help us evaluate the author's hypothesis.
Quote:
(B) Whether there has been an increase in the past 10-15 years in the number of people who wish to express individuality in their physical appearance, but feel that they cannot do so by other means


The author's argument assumes that the mass production of decorations such as clothing and jewelry has made it more difficult for people to express their individuality with those items. But if those people still feel that they can express their individuality with mass produced decorations or if those people largely do not care to express their individuality, then they would have no reason to use tattoos. We can eliminate those possibilities if we know that there has been an increase in the past 10-15 years in the number of people who wish to express individuality in their physical appearance, but feel that they cannot do so by other means. Choice (B) does help us evaluate the author's hypothesis.

Quote:
(C) Whether the ancient civilizations that developed tattoos used them to express individuality

It doesn't matter whether people of ancient civilizations used tattoos to express individuality. We only care whether people in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years have used tattoos to express individuality. Thus, choice (C) can be eliminated.

Quote:
(D) Whether people in Western cultures identify a desire to express individuality

(D) is tempting, but it isn't nearly as strong as (B). First, remember that we're looking for the answer that would be the MOST useful in evaluating the researcher's hypothesis that "tattooing has surged in popularity in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years because of a desire to express individuality..." But (D) does nothing to help explain why there has been a surge in popularity; (D) gives us no indication that anything related to tattooing has changed over time. (B), on the other hand, directly addresses how the desire to express individuality might have led to the the surge in popularity over the last 10-15 years. (D) isn't nearly as useful as (B), and can be eliminated.

Quote:
(E) Whether attitudes toward mass-produced clothing and jewelry have changed in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years

Determining this information does NOT tell us whether the increase in mass production of clothing and jewelry has made it more difficult for people to express their individuality with those items nor does it tell us whether people in Western cultures have increasingly used tattoos to express their individuality over the last 10-15 years. This information does not help us evaluate the author's argument, so choice (E) can be eliminated.

Choice (B) is the best answer.
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 23 May 2017, 23:18
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IMHO the correct answer is (B).

The following is my approach:

Researcher’s hypothesis: The surge in tattooing popularity in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years is BECAUSE OF a desire to express individuality despite an increase in the mass production of other forms of personal decoration, such as clothing and jewelry.
In another word, the researcher hypothesizes that in order to express individuality, Western people prefer tattoo to other means of personal decoration. And she also states that there is a surge in tattoo popularity, so there must be an assumption pointing out a factor that helps increase tattoo demand. For example: the increase in number of people who choose tattoo over other means to demonstrate personality.
Now we look for an answer choice that consider 2 sides of this assumption.

(A) Whether the most popular tattoo designs are mass-produced
=> Wrong. The logic we mention above is that rising usage of tattoo should come from rising number of users (who prefer tattoo), not from whether the supply/production is large or not.
(B) Whether there has been in increase in the past 10-15 years in the number of people who wish to express individuality in their physical appearance, but feel that they cannot do so by other means
=> Yes, this option is right, because it points out the cause of surging number of tattoo over the last 10-15 years.
(C) Whether the ancient civilizations that developed tattoos used them to express individuality
=> Wrong. At first, "ancient civilizations" is out of scope, we are discussing "the last 10-15 years". Secondly, even if there is a change in purpose of tattoo (ancient people use tattoo not for individuality purpose), then it still may not lead to surge in tattoo popularity when the number of people wishing to express individuality declines.
(D) Whether people in Western cultures identify a desire to express individuality
=> Wrong. This only explains why people choose tattoo, but cannot tell why its usage increases during the mentioned period
(E) Whether attitudes toward mass-produced clothing and jewelry have changed in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years.
=> Wrong. We can apply the same reasoning as in option (C) to eliminate (E). If the attitudes haven't changed, then we absolutely expect that there will not be a rise in usage of tattoo. How about a shift in attitude? Even if so, then increasing tattoo popularity is still not necessarily the case, especially when the total number of individuality-favoring people declines.

That is my opinion. Hope to receive your comment on it. Thank you.
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 24 May 2017, 07:17
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This is a close call between B and D. I fell for D , but upon closer examination realized that it must be B. My take :

Premise - "An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has stated that tattoos are an ancient form of body art. Tattoos, she argues, function as a mode of self-identification: the placement and design of tattooed images communicate ideas of central importance to those who bear them." In other words tattoos are an ancient phenomenon and they were used by people to communicate an idea of central importance to those around them.

Conclusion - "Tattooing has surged in popularity in Western cultures over the last 10-15 years because of a desire to express individuality despite an increase in the mass production of other forms of personal decoration, such as clothing and jewelry." In other words, tattooing has surged in western cultures over the past 10-15 years because of a desire to express individuality despite other forms of personal decoration such as clothing and decoration.

Pre-think - This is an evaluate type question. What is the assumption here ? There has been an increase in the number of people in the western world who desire to express their individuality (particularly in the past 10-15 years). (Note : There is a cause - effect reasoning in the conclusion and not in the premise here). For evaluate ask - Is there an increase in the number of people who wish to express their individuality ? Use variance test to get a yes/no answer.

POE -

a) Irrelevant. Not on the lines of Pre-thinking step.
b) Hold
c) We are concerned about modern and not ancient world. Out
d) Note the subtle shift in vocabulary ... the option says "identify a desire", whereas we need a surge in the number of people who wish to express individuality. Hence out
e) Does it matter if the attitudes towards clothing and jewelry changed ? We are concerned about surge in the number of people who wish to express individuality. Hence out.

This was a close one between B and D. But B wins !

Hence answer B
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 12 Nov 2017, 10:32
GMATNinja I HAVE A QUESTION. In option (B
Quote:
) Whether there has been in increase in the past 10-15 years in the number of people who wish to express individuality in their physical appearance, but feel that they cannot do so by other means
.So who are these total number of people? People including those outside western world.There is noting mentioned in the argument regarding those people outside the western world .While tattooing flourished in the western world it could have declined there or flourished in the other world.So the total number can still not answer regarding the hypothesis. Please elaborate your reasoning regarding this point,
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 18 Nov 2017, 14:44
pkm9995109794 wrote:
GMATNinja I HAVE A QUESTION. In option (B
Quote:
) Whether there has been in increase in the past 10-15 years in the number of people who wish to express individuality in their physical appearance, but feel that they cannot do so by other means
.So who are these total number of people? People including those outside western world.There is noting mentioned in the argument regarding those people outside the western world .While tattooing flourished in the western world it could have declined there or flourished in the other world.So the total number can still not answer regarding the hypothesis. Please elaborate your reasoning regarding this point,

I agree that it would be MORE useful to know whether the number of WESTERNERS wishing to express individuality has increased in the past 10-15 years, but remember that we are looking for the MOST useful answer choice. Even though choice (B) doesn't allow us to fully CONFIRM the hypothesis, it would still be useful. More importantly, we can eliminate the other answer choices.

Although choice (B) does not allow us to confirm the hypothesis, it is the BEST answer choice.
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 21 Jun 2018, 13:44
wildhorn wrote:
This can’t be a GMATprep or OG question, right? I chose D strictly because there was no mention of western culture in B. I don’t understand how that could be the right answer, when it could be referring to groups not in western culture. In a DS question, that would be insufficient. And I know everyone says pick “the best” answer. But that’s now how CR (or logical reasoning on the LSAT) works. There is always one clearly correct answer.

I don’t think this is a solid question by any means.

Posted from my mobile device


Wildhorn makes an interesting point. The cardinal rule for CR is to stay within the confines of the question. How rigid then are we supposed to be in our interpretation of the answers? The GMAT seems to reward following the rules, but the questions (well this one in particular) do not lend themselves to a strict reading of the answer choices.

Since the passage mentions Western culture as a main thread if you will to the anthropologist’s assumptions, are we supposed to assume right away that all the answer choices pertain to Western culture...even if choices like B) and E) do not mention this?

I can see B) as the right answer, but to arrive at that conclusion one must assume that we are referring strictly to Western attitudes towards tattoos. Without that assertion, B) is open-ended and can refer to other culture’s attitudes towards tattoos.

That being said, one other thing the GMAT is also notorious for is giving the “best” answers...not necessarily the perfect ones. And I suppose you can argue that yes, in a business setting sometimes you have to settle for the “best” answer because conditions are never perfect.

I just think it’s interesting that in the Quant REASONING section (PS/DS), there is no room for ambiguity...and yet in the Verbal Reasoning section, we are expected to stay objective even when the topics at hand are interently subjective by their very nature. Even in SC, which is probably the most straightforward of the three Verbal topics, I’ve seen my fair share of questions where even the “best” answer is a little dubious. Whether it’s because of misplaced words, a lack of concision, or awkwardly worded formal language that doesn’t really reflect the kind of vernacular being used out there.

We are expected to use logic and think in a very specific way. And by specific I mean whatever the question maker felt was the correct answer. At that point it just feels disingenuous, kind of like we’re supposed to be mind readers. Man, I’m not exactly sure what facets of the business world the GMAT is trying to emulate lol.

Maybe I’m just the GMATCLUB equivalent of Homer’s father from the Simpsons who shakes his fist angrily at the sky and feels the test (while valuable) perpetuates a lot of ideals about the business world that are outdated. I’d be interesting to hear what others think though, and apologies if this seemed like a bit of a rant :)
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Re: An anthropologist studying the social function of human skin has state  [#permalink]

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New post 23 Jun 2018, 15:32
aquaria wrote:
Maybe I’m just the GMATCLUB equivalent of Homer’s father from the Simpsons who shakes his fist angrily at the sky and feels the test (while valuable) perpetuates a lot of ideals about the business world that are outdated. I’d be interesting to hear what others think though, and apologies if this seemed like a bit of a rant :)

First, you deserve a cookie for the wildly appropriate Simpsons reference. :)

So I could happily join you in ranting and raving about the irrelevance of the GMAT! After half of a PhD in psychometrics (the statistical science underneath standardized testing) and 17+ years of GMAT tutoring, I have all sorts of criticisms about the test. I think it's horribly abused by business schools, and it really doesn't mean what most people think it means. I spend plenty of time shaking my fist at the GMAT sky, too. It's one of my favorite pastimes.

But this particular thread probably isn't the right target. Why? It's built around a non-official question. A lot of you have seen this before, but the GMAT spends somewhere between $1500 and $3000 developing every official question, and even the geniuses ;) who write the GMAT Club Tests can't quite compete with that. We could argue that the question in this thread is far from perfect, but that's not the GMAT's fault.

So yes, there are probably good reasons to pummel the GMAT. This question just isn't one of them!
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