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OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell

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It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems in order to maintain mental sharpness as they age. In fact, however, simply talking to other people—that is, participating in social interaction, which engages many mental and perceptual skills—suffices. Evidence to this effect comes from a study showing that the more social contact people report, the better their mental skills.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?

(A) As people grow older, they are often advised to keep exercising their physical and mental capacities in order to maintain or improve them.

(B) Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

(C) Many people are proficient both in social interactions and in solving mathematical problems.

(D) The study did not itself collect data but analyzed data bearing on the issue from prior studies.

(E) The tasks evaluating mental sharpness for which data were compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to conversation.

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems in order to maintain mental sharpness as they age. In fact, however, simply talking to other people---that is, participating in social interaction, which engages many mental and perceptual skills---suffices. Evidence to this effect comes from a study showing that the more social contact people report, the better their mental skills.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?

(A) As people grow older, they are often advised to keep exercising their physical and mental capacities in order to maintain or improve them.

(B) Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

(C) Many people are proficient both in social interactions and in solving mathematical problems.

(D) The study did not itself collect data but analyzed data bearing on the issue from prior studies.

(E) The tasks evaluating mental sharpness for which data were compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to conversation.


Type: Weaken
Boil It Down: Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills
Missing Information: There aren’t other factors
Goal: Find the option that shows that there could be another factor in play (de-link social interaction as a mental skills booster)
Analysis: This prompt sets up a classic causal argument (Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills). That means the reasoning assumes that there aren’t other factors in play. To weaken we need to select an option that either clouds the connection between social interaction and mental skills, or points to another factor altogether.

A) What happens as people grow older is an entirely separate subject. This question deals with a group of people in general, so zeroing in on a random sub-set, a specific niche within the overall group about what those people can do to stay sharp as they grow old is irrelevant. It’s Out Of Focus.

B) Yes. Here we’re presented with an entirely separate cause as to the correlation between social interaction and a boost in mental skills. If someone is suffering from a medical condition that impacts mental sharpness and that if the illness impacts the willingness to socialize, of course that would artificially boost the correlation between social interaction – and mental sharpness. It’s not fair to say that being more social is the cause of possessing greater mental skills then. This option brutalizes the reasoning in the argument.

C) If some people are strong at both, that could appears to be aligned with the argument that we’re asked to weaken since it shows the presence of both the cause and effect. However, it’s just not clear entirely clear how C either strengthens or weakens.

D) It’s not at all clear how analyzing data vs gathering and analyzing data from prior studies would weaken or strengthen. By itself, this option does nothing. Flawed data is a sucker choice on the GMAT. The GMAT doesn’t question the integrity of data. It questions the integrity of the reasoning interpreting the data.

E) This option attacks the wrong end of the causal relationship. We need an option that points to an alternative cause of a boost in mental skills (as in we need an option that shows that it’s not social interaction that boosts mental skills). This option just attempts to redefine how mental skill is defined by the study, and the option in NO way addresses the cause of the heightened mental skills. Instead, if this option had attacked the cause rather than the effect, then it would weaken too. For example, if it said: “The tasks defining social interaction compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to social interaction” then this option would then reveal that there is a totally different cause other than social interaction.


Additional Analysis About Option B)
The key to understanding why option B weakens the argument requires paraphrasing the conclusion, and taking that paraphrase an extra step (and that’s the core reason why this question is up there on the difficulty spectrum):

The argument is essentially saying that social interaction boosts mental sharpness.

Paraphrased conclusion
That claim could be paraphrased to say: without social interaction, mental sharpness would be reduced.

Now read B):
Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

And since B) has a classic GMAT style double-negative, let's paraphrase B) too:
Many medical conditions and treatments that reduce mental sharpness also tend to reduce social interaction.

That means B) is saying:
Medical Conditions and TreatmentsMental Sharpness ⬇, Social Interaction ⬇.

So option B is introducing this Medical Conditions and Treatments alternative cause that impacts both social interaction and mental sharpness. So it's not that social ➧ mental, they go hand in hand attributable to another cause, thereby weakening the argument.

A tricky one! Definitely one of the trickiest of the new CRs in the 2016 OG, for sure.


Bigger GMAT Picture:
On tricky causal arguments, ACT/GMAC won’t just come out and say that it’s this other cause. That can be too obvious: for example, check out this low difficulty OG question with an obvious alternative cause: in-the-last-decade-there-has-been-a-significant-decrease-in-136789.html

On tougher causal questions (like this Intellectual Activities question), ACT/GMAC will try to muddle the relationships with double negatives, or reversing the causality altogether.
For example: The food truck must have been successful because now they have a restaurant. Weakener: Well actually, the restaurant came first, and then they started operating the food truck.

So, if you're consistently scoring in the Verbal 40+ range, expect the causal arguments you see to involve that extra layer.
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Last edited by EMPOWERgmatMax on 31 Jul 2015, 19:22, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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EMPOWERgmatMax wrote:


B) Yes. Here we’re presented with an entirely separate cause as to the correlation between social interaction and a boost in mental skills. If someone is suffering from a medical condition that impacts mental sharpness and that if the illness impacts the willingness to socialize, of course that would artificially boost the correlation between social interaction – and mental sharpness. It’s not fair to say that being more social is the cause of possessing greater mental skills then. This option brutalizes the reasoning in the argument.


Hi EMPOWERgmatMax

Can you help explain as to why artificial correlation exists between social interaction and mental sharpness if B is held true?

Also what would be negation of B?

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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Hello Pawan,

Firstly it is a weaken question so negation would probably not that relevant here.

This is a causal argument and this question is specifically testing the concept of "alternative cause" as a weakener.

Just read the following article from e-gmat to understand this concept:

alternate-cause-a-weakener-or-not-155034.html



Hope it helps.

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 25 Jul 2015, 04:13
Option B is the answer.

Although I did not immediately understand what option B states, I was easily able to eliminate the other options. Elimination works wonders :)
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 25 Jul 2015, 23:01
pavankarwa123 wrote:
EMPOWERgmatMax wrote:


B) Yes. Here we’re presented with an entirely separate cause as to the correlation between social interaction and a boost in mental skills. If someone is suffering from a medical condition that impacts mental sharpness and that if the illness impacts the willingness to socialize, of course that would artificially boost the correlation between social interaction – and mental sharpness. It’s not fair to say that being more social is the cause of possessing greater mental skills then. This option brutalizes the reasoning in the argument.


Hi EMPOWERgmatMax

Can you help explain as to why artificial correlation exists between social interaction and mental sharpness if B is held true?

Also what would be negation of B?


Hi pavankarwa123,

Sure! I'd be happy to help. In summary, this argument is trying to say that being social boosts mental sharpness. It turns out that option B is pointing out that the reason why the correlation appears pronounced is because there are many illnesses impacting both social and mental skills. If that were true, then we'd see artificial inflation in the connection between a lack of mental sharpness and social skill. However, that doesn't mean we can reach the conclusion found in the prompt and say that being social boosts mental sharpness. That's why this option weakens. It exposes another factor that can explain a substantial part of the correlation.

WillGetIt raises an important point about negation. We use negation to test the validity of an assumption. Given that assumptions are unstated but necessary ingredients in an argument, it follows that if we were to take the opposite of an assumption, the argument would collapse. That's why Negation can be handy for assumption questions, or in your analysis of a prompt. You wouldn't negate options in a strengthen or weaken question though. That's the wrong tool for the job. In strengthen/weaken questions, you're looking for an option that either reinforces or weakens what's assumed in the logic.

ChiGMAT has mentions something valuable too. Elimination is a VERY, VERY beautiful thing. Skilled GMAT test-takers use elimination relentlessly and ruthlessly.
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 30 Jul 2015, 13:51
i guess here we know that"the cause caused the effect". So B says that something else caused both the cause and the effect.hence it weakens.Am i right EMPOWERgmatMax?

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Actually, here the argument says: A leads to B.
A - Social interactions
B - Mental alertness

Option (B) says that actually lack of B is the cause of lack of A. So when A is there, B is also there and hence, we may feel that A causes B but A may not actually be the cause of B.
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New post 30 Jul 2015, 23:18
thanx@veritasprepkarishma....now i understand

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jul 2015, 06:01
VeritasPrepKarishma wrote:
Actually, here the argument says: A leads to B.
A - Social interactions
B - Mental alertness

Option (B) says that actually lack of B is the cause of lack of A. So when A is there, B is also there and hence, we may feel that A causes B but A may not actually be the cause of B.


Could you please explain why is option E wrong?
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jul 2015, 07:10
samdighe wrote:
VeritasPrepKarishma wrote:
Actually, here the argument says: A leads to B.
A - Social interactions
B - Mental alertness

Option (B) says that actually lack of B is the cause of lack of A. So when A is there, B is also there and hence, we may feel that A causes B but A may not actually be the cause of B.


Could you please explain why is option E wrong?

First of all (E) doesnt talk anything about the relation between social interaction and mental alertness. And since this is a "cause and effect" passage, the assumptions are that the "effect does not lead the cause" and that "no other cause apart from what is stated causes the effect".B weakens the above assumptions and hence is the correct answer

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 31 Jul 2015, 09:10
EMPOWERgmatMax wrote:
It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems in order to maintain mental sharpness as they age. In fact, however, simply talking to other people---that is, participating in social interaction, which engages many mental and perceptual skills---suffices. Evidence to this effect comes from a study showing that the more social contact people report, the better their mental skills.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?

(A) As people grow older, they are often advised to keep exercising their physical and mental capacities in order to maintain or improve them.

(B) Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

(C) Many people are proficient both in social interactions and in solving mathematical problems.

(D) The study did not itself collect data but analyzed data bearing on the issue from prior studies.

(E) The tasks evaluating mental sharpness for which data were compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to conversation.


Type: Weaken
Boil It Down: Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills
Missing Information: There aren’t other factors
Goal: Find the option that shows that there could be another factor in play (de-link social interaction as a mental skills booster)
Analysis: This prompt sets up a classic causal argument (Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills). That means the reasoning assumes that there aren’t other factors in play. To weaken we need to select an option that either clouds the connection between social interaction and mental skills, or points to another factor altogether.

A) What happens as people grow older is an entirely separate subject. This question deals with a group of people in general, so zeroing in on a random sub-set, a specific niche within the overall group about what those people can do to stay sharp as they grow old is irrelevant. It’s Out Of Focus.

B) Yes. Here we’re presented with an entirely separate cause as to the correlation between social interaction and a boost in mental skills. If someone is suffering from a medical condition that impacts mental sharpness and that if the illness impacts the willingness to socialize, of course that would artificially boost the correlation between social interaction – and mental sharpness. It’s not fair to say that being more social is the cause of possessing greater mental skills then. This option brutalizes the reasoning in the argument.

C) If some people are strong at both, that could appears to be aligned with the argument that we’re asked to weaken since it shows the presence of both the cause and effect. However, it’s just not clear entirely clear how C either strengthens or weakens.

D) It’s not at all clear how analyzing data vs gathering and analyzing data from prior studies would weaken or strengthen. By itself, this option does nothing. Flawed data is a sucker choice on the GMAT. The GMAT doesn’t question the integrity of data. It questions the integrity of the reasoning interpreting the data.

E) This option attacks the wrong end of the causal relationship. We need an option that points to an alternative cause of a boost in mental skills (as in we need an option that shows that it’s not social interaction that boosts mental skills). This option just attempts to redefine how mental skill is defined by the study, and the option in NO way addresses the cause of the heightened mental skills. Instead, if this option had attacked the cause rather than the effect, then it would weaken too. For example, if it said: “The tasks defining social interaction compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to social interaction” then this option would then reveal that there is a totally different cause other than social interaction.


Hi

I have one query here.

X--->y its an cause and effect and weaken argument so we need to find out an alternate cause to break the argument. so we can say some other reason is responsible for mental skills.

here option B is talking about social isolation then how it can be alternate cause.

could you please clarify this.

Thanks

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manojsundar1 wrote:
i guess here we know that"the cause caused the effect". So B says that something else caused both the cause and the effect.hence it weakens.Am i right EMPOWERgmatMax?

I'd be happy to clarify further! The key to understanding why option B weakens the argument requires paraphrasing the conclusion, and taking that paraphrase an extra step (and that’s the core reason why this question is up there on the difficulty spectrum):

The argument is essentially saying that social interaction boosts mental sharpness.

Paraphrased conclusion
That claim could be paraphrased to say: without social interaction, mental sharpness would be reduced.

Now read B):
Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

And since B) has a classic GMAT style double-negative, let's paraphrase B) too:
Many medical conditions and treatments that reduce mental sharpness also tend to reduce social interaction.

That means B) is saying:
Medical Conditions and TreatmentsMental Sharpness ⬇, Social Interaction ⬇.

So option B is introducing this Medical Conditions and Treatments alternative cause that impacts both social interaction and mental sharpness. So it's not that social ➧ mental, they go hand in hand attributable to another cause, thereby weakening the argument.

A tricky one! Definitely one of the trickiest of the new CRs in the 2016 OG, for sure.


Bigger GMAT Picture:
On tricky causal arguments, ACT/GMAC won’t just come out and say that it’s this other cause. That can be too obvious: for example, check out this low difficulty OG question with an obvious alternative cause: in-the-last-decade-there-has-been-a-significant-decrease-in-136789.html

On tougher causal questions (like this Intellectual Activities question), ACT/GMAC will try to muddle the relationships with double negatives, or reversing the causality altogether.
For example: The food truck must have been successful because now they have a restaurant. Weakener: Well actually, the restaurant came first, and then they started operating the food truck.

So, if you're consistently scoring in the Verbal 40+ range, expect the causal arguments you see to involve that extra layer.
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PathFinder007 wrote:
Hi

I have one query here.

X--->y its an cause and effect and weaken argument so we need to find out an alternate cause to break the argument. so we can say some other reason is responsible for mental skills.

here option B is talking about social isolation then how it can be alternate cause.

could you please clarify this.

Thanks

Hi PathFinder007,

I wanted to make sure you specifically saw the analysis that explains why B) delivers an alternative cause:

Medical Conditions and TreatmentsMental Sharpness ⬇, Social Interaction ⬇.

So option B is introducing this Medical Conditions and Treatments alternative cause that impacts both social interaction and mental sharpness. So it's not that social ➧ mental, they go hand in hand attributable to another cause, thereby weakening the argument.
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 01 Aug 2015, 01:30
Hi Max,
Kudos to your fully detailed explanation. :cool

You mentioned GMAC will try to muddle relationship with double negatives. Suppose that choice B says the following:
Many medical conditions and treatments that positively affect a person's mental sharpness ( increase mental sharpness) also tend to decrease that person's social isolation ( increase the social interaction). Maybe if there is medicines that affect both mental sharpness and social interaction in a good way in the same time there is other medicines that adverse both.

So, can Also GMAC try to muddle the relationship with double positive effect?
As I understood in my big picture that we can weaken the argument by presenting an alternative cause inflation either negatively or positively. Do I miss something?

Thanks

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New post 01 Aug 2015, 11:10
Mo2men wrote:
Hi Max,
Kudos to your fully detailed explanation. :cool

You mentioned GMAC will try to muddle relationship with double negatives. Suppose that choice B says the following:
Many medical conditions and treatments that positively affect a person's mental sharpness ( increase mental sharpness) also tend to decrease that person's social isolation ( increase the social interaction). Maybe if there is medicines that affect both mental sharpness and social interaction in a good way in the same time there is other medicines that adverse both.

So, can Also GMAC try to muddle the relationship with double positive effect?
As I understood in my big picture that we can weaken the argument by presenting an alternative cause inflation either negatively or positively. Do I miss something?

Thanks

Hi Mo2men!

Great question. I'm really a fan of how you properly digest each question rather than just rushing on to the next (as is quite common).
To your hypothetical: "Maybe if there is medicines that affect both mental sharpness and social interaction in a good way in the same time there is other medicines that adverse both."
Yes, that would also weaken because this new fact would decouple the direct causality between Social → Mental (because instead there would be another cause that impacts both).

To exemplify classic ACT/GMAT double-negatives
: The new policy won't cause a decrease in employee motivation.
When you have a double-negative, the classic clean up patch is to paraphrase by dropping both negatives in a logically equivalent way: The new policy will leave employee motivation at (at least the same level).
Another tip: Whenever more than one double-negative is in play, it can be VERY helpful to jot down your cleaner paraphrases. It can be easy too easy to lose track otherwise, and having to re-paraphrase can eat up the clock.
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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samdighe wrote:
VeritasPrepKarishma wrote:
Actually, here the argument says: A leads to B.
A - Social interactions
B - Mental alertness

Option (B) says that actually lack of B is the cause of lack of A. So when A is there, B is also there and hence, we may feel that A causes B but A may not actually be the cause of B.


Could you please explain why is option E wrong?


Let me add here that (E), if anything, is a strengthener. It definitely doesn't weaken the argument.

Let's put it in simple terms:

Say I tell you:
People believe that solving Math maintains mental sharpness. But actually social interaction is enough. A study showed that people with more social activity have better mental skills.

Now, A says, " Mental skills were measured by checking language skills."
and B says, "Mental skills were measured by checking Math skills."

- who is strengthening my argument and who is weakening it?

A is weakening my argument since if mental skills were measured by language skills, obviously people with more social activity will report higher skills. It doesn't need to imply that social interactions lead to sharper mental skills. If all you are going to check is how well people can interact, the study will show that social people will have higher mental skills.

B strengthens my argument that social activity actually increases even the quantitative ability - which is probably one of the measures of mental skills. Hence, it does make my argument stronger that social activity is enough to improve mental skills - no matter how you measure mental skills.

Option (E) says what B says in my example. Hence it is not a weakener; it is, perhaps, a wee bit of a strengthener.
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 07 Sep 2015, 07:47
EMPOWERgmatMax wrote:
It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems in order to maintain mental sharpness as they age. In fact, however, simply talking to other people---that is, participating in social interaction, which engages many mental and perceptual skills---suffices. Evidence to this effect comes from a study showing that the more social contact people report, the better their mental skills.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?

(A) As people grow older, they are often advised to keep exercising their physical and mental capacities in order to maintain or improve them.

(B) Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

(C) Many people are proficient both in social interactions and in solving mathematical problems.

(D) The study did not itself collect data but analyzed data bearing on the issue from prior studies.

(E) The tasks evaluating mental sharpness for which data were compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to conversation.


Type: Weaken
Boil It Down: Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills
Missing Information: There aren’t other factors
Goal: Find the option that shows that there could be another factor in play (de-link social interaction as a mental skills booster)
Analysis: This prompt sets up a classic causal argument (Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills). That means the reasoning assumes that there aren’t other factors in play. To weaken we need to select an option that either clouds the connection between social interaction and mental skills, or points to another factor altogether.

A) What happens as people grow older is an entirely separate subject. This question deals with a group of people in general, so zeroing in on a random sub-set, a specific niche within the overall group about what those people can do to stay sharp as they grow old is irrelevant. It’s Out Of Focus.

B) Yes. Here we’re presented with an entirely separate cause as to the correlation between social interaction and a boost in mental skills. If someone is suffering from a medical condition that impacts mental sharpness and that if the illness impacts the willingness to socialize, of course that would artificially boost the correlation between social interaction – and mental sharpness. It’s not fair to say that being more social is the cause of possessing greater mental skills then. This option brutalizes the reasoning in the argument.

C) If some people are strong at both, that could appears to be aligned with the argument that we’re asked to weaken since it shows the presence of both the cause and effect. However, it’s just not clear entirely clear how C either strengthens or weakens.

D) It’s not at all clear how analyzing data vs gathering and analyzing data from prior studies would weaken or strengthen. By itself, this option does nothing. Flawed data is a sucker choice on the GMAT. The GMAT doesn’t question the integrity of data. It questions the integrity of the reasoning interpreting the data.

E) This option attacks the wrong end of the causal relationship. We need an option that points to an alternative cause of a boost in mental skills (as in we need an option that shows that it’s not social interaction that boosts mental skills). This option just attempts to redefine how mental skill is defined by the study, and the option in NO way addresses the cause of the heightened mental skills. Instead, if this option had attacked the cause rather than the effect, then it would weaken too. For example, if it said: “The tasks defining social interaction compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to social interaction” then this option would then reveal that there is a totally different cause other than social interaction.


Additional Analysis About Option B)
The key to understanding why option B weakens the argument requires paraphrasing the conclusion, and taking that paraphrase an extra step (and that’s the core reason why this question is up there on the difficulty spectrum):

The argument is essentially saying that social interaction boosts mental sharpness.

Paraphrased conclusion
That claim could be paraphrased to say: without social interaction, mental sharpness would be reduced.

Now read B):
Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

And since B) has a classic GMAT style double-negative, let's paraphrase B) too:
Many medical conditions and treatments that reduce mental sharpness also tend to reduce social interaction.

That means B) is saying:
Medical Conditions and TreatmentsMental Sharpness ⬇, Social Interaction ⬇.

So option B is introducing this Medical Conditions and Treatments alternative cause that impacts both social interaction and mental sharpness. So it's not that social ➧ mental, they go hand in hand attributable to another cause, thereby weakening the argument.

A tricky one! Definitely one of the trickiest of the new CRs in the 2016 OG, for sure.


Bigger GMAT Picture:
On tricky causal arguments, ACT/GMAC won’t just come out and say that it’s this other cause. That can be too obvious: for example, check out this low difficulty OG question with an obvious alternative cause: in-the-last-decade-there-has-been-a-significant-decrease-in-136789.html

On tougher causal questions (like this Intellectual Activities question), ACT/GMAC will try to muddle the relationships with double negatives, or reversing the causality altogether.
For example: The food truck must have been successful because now they have a restaurant. Weakener: Well actually, the restaurant came first, and then they started operating the food truck.

So, if you're consistently scoring in the Verbal 40+ range, expect the causal arguments you see to involve that extra layer.


Hi i am still not able to understand why E is wrong... E is very tempting to mark. So in interpret E as.... the data compiled by study had some tasks for evaluating mental sharpness, and the tasks were more similar to mathematics problem than to conversation. So doesn't this weaken the evidence cited? Doesn't this prove that to maintain mental sharpness, social interaction is not necessary?
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 08 Oct 2015, 01:33
EMPOWERgmatMax wrote:
It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems in order to maintain mental sharpness as they age. In fact, however, simply talking to other people---that is, participating in social interaction, which engages many mental and perceptual skills---suffices. Evidence to this effect comes from a study showing that the more social contact people report, the better their mental skills.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?

(A) As people grow older, they are often advised to keep exercising their physical and mental capacities in order to maintain or improve them.

(B) Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

(C) Many people are proficient both in social interactions and in solving mathematical problems.

(D) The study did not itself collect data but analyzed data bearing on the issue from prior studies.

(E) The tasks evaluating mental sharpness for which data were compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to conversation.


Type: Weaken
Boil It Down: Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills
Missing Information: There aren’t other factors
Goal: Find the option that shows that there could be another factor in play (de-link social interaction as a mental skills booster)
Analysis: This prompt sets up a classic causal argument (Social interaction up -> Boost mental skills). That means the reasoning assumes that there aren’t other factors in play. To weaken we need to select an option that either clouds the connection between social interaction and mental skills, or points to another factor altogether.

A) What happens as people grow older is an entirely separate subject. This question deals with a group of people in general, so zeroing in on a random sub-set, a specific niche within the overall group about what those people can do to stay sharp as they grow old is irrelevant. It’s Out Of Focus.

B) Yes. Here we’re presented with an entirely separate cause as to the correlation between social interaction and a boost in mental skills. If someone is suffering from a medical condition that impacts mental sharpness and that if the illness impacts the willingness to socialize, of course that would artificially boost the correlation between social interaction – and mental sharpness. It’s not fair to say that being more social is the cause of possessing greater mental skills then. This option brutalizes the reasoning in the argument.

C) If some people are strong at both, that could appears to be aligned with the argument that we’re asked to weaken since it shows the presence of both the cause and effect. However, it’s just not clear entirely clear how C either strengthens or weakens.

D) It’s not at all clear how analyzing data vs gathering and analyzing data from prior studies would weaken or strengthen. By itself, this option does nothing. Flawed data is a sucker choice on the GMAT. The GMAT doesn’t question the integrity of data. It questions the integrity of the reasoning interpreting the data.

E) This option attacks the wrong end of the causal relationship. We need an option that points to an alternative cause of a boost in mental skills (as in we need an option that shows that it’s not social interaction that boosts mental skills). This option just attempts to redefine how mental skill is defined by the study, and the option in NO way addresses the cause of the heightened mental skills. Instead, if this option had attacked the cause rather than the effect, then it would weaken too. For example, if it said: “The tasks defining social interaction compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to social interaction” then this option would then reveal that there is a totally different cause other than social interaction.


Additional Analysis About Option B)
The key to understanding why option B weakens the argument requires paraphrasing the conclusion, and taking that paraphrase an extra step (and that’s the core reason why this question is up there on the difficulty spectrum):

The argument is essentially saying that social interaction boosts mental sharpness.

Paraphrased conclusion
That claim could be paraphrased to say: without social interaction, mental sharpness would be reduced.

Now read B):
Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.

And since B) has a classic GMAT style double-negative, let's paraphrase B) too:
Many medical conditions and treatments that reduce mental sharpness also tend to reduce social interaction.

That means B) is saying:
Medical Conditions and TreatmentsMental Sharpness ⬇, Social Interaction ⬇.

So option B is introducing this Medical Conditions and Treatments alternative cause that impacts both social interaction and mental sharpness. So it's not that social ➧ mental, they go hand in hand attributable to another cause, thereby weakening the argument.

A tricky one! Definitely one of the trickiest of the new CRs in the 2016 OG, for sure.


Bigger GMAT Picture:
On tricky causal arguments, ACT/GMAC won’t just come out and say that it’s this other cause. That can be too obvious: for example, check out this low difficulty OG question with an obvious alternative cause: in-the-last-decade-there-has-been-a-significant-decrease-in-136789.html

On tougher causal questions (like this Intellectual Activities question), ACT/GMAC will try to muddle the relationships with double negatives, or reversing the causality altogether.
For example: The food truck must have been successful because now they have a restaurant. Weakener: Well actually, the restaurant came first, and then they started operating the food truck.

So, if you're consistently scoring in the Verbal 40+ range, expect the causal arguments you see to involve that extra layer.


Hi

Thanks for awesome explanation. I didn't understand your explanation for option E. could you please clarify this

Thanks.

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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell [#permalink]

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New post 08 Oct 2015, 11:24
It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems in order to maintain mental sharpness as they age.
In fact, however, simply talking to other people-that is, participating in social interaction, which engages many mental and perceptual skills-suffices.
Evidence to this effect comes from a study showing that the more social contact people report, the better their mental skills.

Which of the following, if true, most seriously weakens the force of the evidence cited?

(A) As people grow older, they are often advised to keep exercising their physical and mental capacities in order to maintain or improve them.
advice regarding physical capacities cannot weaken evidence.

(B) Many medical conditions and treatments that adversely affect a person's mental sharpness also tend to increase that person's social isolation.
evidence is regarding medical conditions and treatments is completely out of scope and does not affect conclusion.

(C) Many people are proficient both in social interactions and in solving mathematical problems.
(both are considered together but we need support one over other. cannot be assumed.)

(D) The study did not itself collect data but analyzed data bearing on the issue from prior studies.
(we have no info reg prior collected data so we cannot say that it is proper.)

(E) The tasks evaluating mental sharpness for which data were compiled by the study were more akin to mathematics problems than to conversation.
(we just said intellectual activities such as solving crossword puzzles or mathematics problems help us maintain mental sharpness but nowhere the fact that they are similar to math problems affects the conclusion. This does not help to weaken the conclusion or support intellectual activities over conversation or social skills in improving mental sharpness.)

I just don't find any choice correct. I don't understand how B weakens the conclusion.
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Re: OG 2016: It is widely assumed that people need to engage in intell   [#permalink] 08 Oct 2015, 11:24

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