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The findings of recent research indicate that prolonged exposure...

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The findings of recent research indicate that prolonged exposure... [#permalink]

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54% (01:12) correct 46% (01:21) wrong based on 204 sessions

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The findings of recent research indicate that prolonged exposure to radiation from computer monitors diminishes mental capacity. The evidence cited in the study shows that workers who spend in excess of 20 hours per week directly in front of a computer monitor exhibit an average 12% reduction in cognitive abilities after 15 years in the same occupation.

The response to which of the following questions would be most helpful in evaluating the reasoning presented in the survey?

(A) Was the exhibited decline in cognitive abilities permanent or reversible?
(B) What was the reason for analyzing a 15 year period instead of a 12 or 18 year period?
(C) Did workers performing varying occupational tasks exhibit different reductions in mental capacity?
(D) Did the cognitive abilities of some of the workers decline by less than 12% over the course of the study?
(E) By what percent do the cognitive abilities of the average worker decline over a 15 year period?
[Reveal] Spoiler: OA

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Re: The findings of recent research indicate that prolonged exposure... [#permalink]

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New post 01 Jan 2018, 21:33
This is a “Useful to Evaluate” question, which borrows many tactics from traditional Strengthen/Weaken questions. (The leverage phrase in the question stem, “which… would be most helpful in evaluating…” clearly indicates this question type.) With Useful to Evaluate questions, "Minding the Gap" is critical. The correct answer will either plug the gap (Strengthen) or explode the gap (Weaken). Trap answers will not address the logical gap.

The primary logical gap in this question is the disconnect between the data and the conclusion. While the data tells us that workers who spend 20+ hours in front of a computer monitor exhibit a 12% reduction in cognitive abilities after 15 years, we don’t know if that 12% reduction is actually caused by the exposure or if it might be caused by something else during those 15 years. (For example, what if most people who sit at a job for 15 years see a much greater decline in cognitive ability? A mere 12% reduction could actually show that sitting in front of computer monitors keep your brain relatively sharp! Alternatively, what if it isn’t the radiation that causes the decline; instead, sitting in one position for 15 years is what actually causes it?) We need to find the answer choice that addresses this gap in some way.

Answer choice A “moves the goalposts” on the reader, getting the reader to think that the reversibility (or permanency) of the damage matters. This introduces an emotional, human component to the story, but one that isn’t related to the logical gap. A is a trap answer.

Answer choice B traps those who misunderstand what the problem is asking. While questioning the 15-year period might be interesting if someone is evaluating the study as a whole, the question stem explicitly asks us to identify the question that can best help us evaluate the specific reasoning presented. Answer choice B does not address the logical gap between the data and the conclusion.

At first glance, answer choice C looks like it helps us to compare the rates of cognitive decline across a spectrum of various occupational tasks. However, answer choice C is a Yes/No question that doesn’t really help us much: if the answer is “No”, then it appears that occupational tasks might not determine cognitive decline. But if we answer “Yes”, then we only know that there is a relationship between occupational tasks and cognitive decline. We don’t know what that relationship is, and we have no data points to compare. Answer choice C gets us started, but is very weak.

Answer choice D doesn’t mind the logical gap. In fact, the problem states that the “average” cognitive decline was 12%. This data point implies that either (1) all of the participants somehow had the exact same 12% drop, or (2) some people were above and others were below the 12% average. That is how “average” works. It is very likely that the data was spread around the 12% average, so D tells us very little. And D certainly doesn’t address the lack of clear causal link between monitor exposure and cognitive decline.

Answer choice E gives us a strong comparative that can help us prove (or disprove) a potential causal link. The answer to the question in this answer choice would give us a measurable number against which we can compare the 12% cognitive decline. Whether the cognitive decline rate of the average worker is higher than, lower than, or equal to the measured 12% decline, such data could give us strong leverage to evaluate the reasoning in the argument. Answer choice E is the correct answer.
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Aaron J. Pond
Veritas Prep Elite-Level Instructor

Hit "+1 Kudos" if my post helped you understand the GMAT better.
Look me up at https://www.veritasprep.com/gmat/aaron-pond/ if you want to learn more GMAT Jujitsu.

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Re: The findings of recent research indicate that prolonged exposure... [#permalink]

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New post 22 Apr 2018, 00:39
AaronPond wrote:
This is a “Useful to Evaluate” question, which borrows many tactics from traditional Strengthen/Weaken questions. (The leverage phrase in the question stem, “which… would be most helpful in evaluating…” clearly indicates this question type.) With Useful to Evaluate questions, "Minding the Gap" is critical. The correct answer will either plug the gap (Strengthen) or explode the gap (Weaken). Trap answers will not address the logical gap.

The primary logical gap in this question is the disconnect between the data and the conclusion. While the data tells us that workers who spend 20+ hours in front of a computer monitor exhibit a 12% reduction in cognitive abilities after 15 years, we don’t know if that 12% reduction is actually caused by the exposure or if it might be caused by something else during those 15 years. (For example, what if most people who sit at a job for 15 years see a much greater decline in cognitive ability? A mere 12% reduction could actually show that sitting in front of computer monitors keep your brain relatively sharp! Alternatively, what if it isn’t the radiation that causes the decline; instead, sitting in one position for 15 years is what actually causes it?) We need to find the answer choice that addresses this gap in some way.

Answer choice A “moves the goalposts” on the reader, getting the reader to think that the reversibility (or permanency) of the damage matters. This introduces an emotional, human component to the story, but one that isn’t related to the logical gap. A is a trap answer.

Answer choice B traps those who misunderstand what the problem is asking. While questioning the 15-year period might be interesting if someone is evaluating the study as a whole, the question stem explicitly asks us to identify the question that can best help us evaluate the specific reasoning presented. Answer choice B does not address the logical gap between the data and the conclusion.

At first glance, answer choice C looks like it helps us to compare the rates of cognitive decline across a spectrum of various occupational tasks. However, answer choice C is a Yes/No question that doesn’t really help us much: if the answer is “No”, then it appears that occupational tasks might not determine cognitive decline. But if we answer “Yes”, then we only know that there is a relationship between occupational tasks and cognitive decline. We don’t know what that relationship is, and we have no data points to compare. Answer choice C gets us started, but is very weak.

Answer choice D doesn’t mind the logical gap. In fact, the problem states that the “average” cognitive decline was 12%. This data point implies that either (1) all of the participants somehow had the exact same 12% drop, or (2) some people were above and others were below the 12% average. That is how “average” works. It is very likely that the data was spread around the 12% average, so D tells us very little. And D certainly doesn’t address the lack of clear causal link between monitor exposure and cognitive decline.

Answer choice E gives us a strong comparative that can help us prove (or disprove) a potential causal link. The answer to the question in this answer choice would give us a measurable number against which we can compare the 12% cognitive decline. Whether the cognitive decline rate of the average worker is higher than, lower than, or equal to the measured 12% decline, such data could give us strong leverage to evaluate the reasoning in the argument. Answer choice E is the correct answer.


AaronPond

Sir,
With all due respect,I would like to point out that you have posted the question on 21:29 and posted the OE at 21:33.At least give people some time to give their point of view.Then you can step in whenever you want.
Its a good question by the way.
Re: The findings of recent research indicate that prolonged exposure...   [#permalink] 22 Apr 2018, 00:39
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