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Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by smiller Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:15 am

Question Type:
Weaken

Stimulus Breakdown:
Premise: During the last year the price of produce has spiked.
Premise: During the last year the two largest retail seed companies saw a 19% increase in sales.
Conclusion: Increases in the price of produce have caused an increase in the planting of personal gardens.

Answer Anticipation:
This argument presents a Correlation vs. Causation flaw. If produce prices and seed companies’ sales both increase at the same time, it does not prove that one caused the other. We’ll keep an eye open for answers that suggest an alternate cause, or an answer that indicates the causality is reversed.

Also notice that the increased planting of personal gardens is a new idea in the conclusion. It wasn’t mentioned in the premises. We don’t know that the increase in seed company sales actually resulted from the planting of personal gardens.

Correct answer:
(E)

Answer choice analysis:
(A) Doesn’t address conclusion: This answer only explains why produce prices have increased. It doesn’t address the relationship between produce prices and personal gardens.

(B) Out of scope/Opposite function: This answer does involve produce prices and personal gardens, but the size of the gardens isn’t clearly relevant. If gardens are smaller now, that might help explain why an increase in produce prices would cause an increase in the planting of gardens. But this would strengthen the argument, not weaken!

(C) Doesn’t address conclusion: If there are waiting lists to rent garden plots, it might mean that the gardens are full, which could explain why seed company sales have increased. However, this doesn’t weaken the idea that produce prices are what led to an increase in planting of gardens.

(D) Out of Scope: The argument doesn’t discuss an economic downturn, and there isn’t a clear connection between a downturn and our argument.

(E) Correct: This challenges the idea that our evidence, the increase in seed company sales, was caused by an increase of the planting of personal gardens. If a large seed company went out of business then people could be buying the same amount of seeds, but with fewer companies selling them. The remaining companies would see an increase in sales without any more gardens being planted. There might not have been an increase in gardens being planted, much less one caused by an increase in produce prices.

Takeaway/Pattern:
We don’t have to accept any part of an argument’s conclusion as true. The premises are supposed to convince us that the conclusion is true. When an argument leaves several gaps between the premises and the conclusion, the answer to a Weaken question might attack any of those gaps.

#officialexplanation
 
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Re: Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by andrewgong01 Sun Nov 19, 2017 7:31 pm

Would we still call choice "E" as attacking a gap in the argument or is it more so attacking the evidence head on because "E", the credited response" is basically calling out the fact that the statistics being cited (19% increase in sales) is misguided, albeit it does not say it is "wrong".

Also, would we consider this to be a relative vs absolute language flaw because 19% increase in sales seems to be an absolute increase in sales for the given companies but it is not an absolute increase in sales. However, it is not a relative increase either unless we count the 19% increase in sales as a relative increase ( I think the 19% increase is both relative and absolute)
 
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Re: Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by NicholasN360 Sun Nov 26, 2017 1:24 pm

Why doesn't D create an alternate cause to increase in personal planting, thus weakening the argument? Recession would have a similar consumer impact as an increase in produce pricing.
 
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Re: Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by JoyS894 Thu Nov 30, 2017 7:36 pm

I am still unsure of how to differentiate between the levels of "weakening" answer choices C, D, and E all seem to do. I think they weaken by pointing to an alternate cause. C= the waiting lists for community gardens are long so people are making personal gardens, which is responsible for the increase in community gardens (it has nothing to do with produce price.) D= The whole economy is down (produce prices could be higher or lower) so people are buying less groceries and therefore only using their own gardens, causing an increase in community gardens. E= The reason for an increase in seed sales is because one seed company went out of business (couldn't produce prices still have risen causing people to plant their own gardens so these two seed companies are making more than ever before because of that AND because one of their main competitors went out of business?)

As you can tell, this answer choice was too subjective for me and I got lost in the answer choices. Any input is appreciated!
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Re: Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by smiller Thu Nov 30, 2017 11:23 pm

These are some good questions!

andrewgong01 wrote:Would we still call choice "E" as attacking a gap in the argument or is it more so attacking the evidence head on…


Choice (E) does not attack any evidence. It states that “a large retail seed company” went out of business. It doesn't state that this was one of the two companies described in the premise, the companies that reported increased sales. Choice (E) does not cast doubt on the fact that the two largest seed companies reported increased sales.

andrewgong01 wrote:Also, would we consider this to be a relative vs absolute language flaw…


No. An example of a relative vs. absolute flaw would be, “produce is more expensive this year than in previous years. Therefore, produce is expensive this year.” In this case, the premise makes a relative statement (more expensive than previous years) and the conclusion presents an absolute statement (is expensive). This type of flaw doesn’t occur in Q22.

NicholasN360 wrote:Why doesn't D create an alternate cause to increase in personal planting, thus weakening the argument? Recession would have a similar consumer impact as an increase in produce pricing.


For (D) to weaken we have to assume that there was an economic downturn during the time period discussed in the stimulus. Choice (D), by itself, doesn’t tell us that any downturn actually occurred during this time, and neither does the stimulus. We have to assume that one did. This is a common trap in Weaken questions: watch out for answers that require significant assumptions. By comparison, if a large seed company went out of business, other seed companies could easily see an increase in business. There isn’t a huge leap in reasoning there, not as large as the assumption needed to make (D) work.

JoyS894 wrote:C= the waiting lists for community gardens are long so people are making personal gardens, which is responsible for the increase in community gardens (it has nothing to do with produce price.)


The spike in produce prices is given to us as a fact, in a premise. Maybe the spike caused community gardens to become more popular, resulting in the longer waiting lists, which in turn caused an increase in the planting of personal gardens. This would strengthen our argument, not weaken it. For (C) to weaken we have to assume that it doesn’t strengthen, when that’s actually quite possible given the evidence at hand. Choice (C) is very similar to (D) in that we have to make a number of significant assumptions in order for (C) to weaken.

What we're seeing here is a common feature of difficult Strengthen and Weaken questions. There will be two or three answers that could potentially do the job. One answer—the correct one—will require very few assumptions, while the incorrect answers will require significant assumptions. You have to notice how much you’re adding to the story in order to make each answer choice work.
 
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Re: Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by MingL143 Sun Nov 04, 2018 1:40 pm

Why is B wrong? “ The average personal garden is much smaller than it was decades ago when inexpensive produce started to become available”. So, can it be interpreted as “before the inexpensive produce – in another words, when the produce price was higher, the average personal garden was smaller”? So it weakens the conclusion.

\Why is D wrong? “Personal gardens are usually popular in economic downturns”? Is it wrong because “economic downturns are not necessarily produce prices decrease”?

Why is “E” right? E is attacking the fact of the premise. Sales increase may not prevent the seed company from bankruptcy, right? So it doesn’t hurt the conclusion?
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Re: Q22 - Newspaper: Increases in produce prices

by ohthatpatrick Mon Nov 05, 2018 3:55 pm

CURIOUS FACT: Why have the two biggest seed companies reported a sales uptick of 19% last year?

AUTHOR'S EXPLANATION: Since the price of produce went up last year, people are apparently planting personal gardens more (presumably with produce plants)

We can weaken this in one of two ways:
1. Provide a different explanation for the curious fact.
Is there some other reason why the seed companies had a sales increase of 19%?

2. Undermine the author's explanation
What facts would make it sound less likely that people are reacting to high produce prices by growing their own gardens?


On a Weaken question, you're more likely to see LSAT give you a correct answer that explains the background fact a different way.

(E) is correct by doing just that ... the reason two large seed companies are having a 19% uptick is because another seed company went out of business. When Circuit City and Radio Shack go out of business, Best Buy gets more customers. That doesn't mean that more people are buying electronics; it just means that more of them are buying from Best Buy, since the other options no longer exist.

(B) is wrong because the size of the gardens doesn't seem particularly relevant. The author is arguing that MORE PEOPLE are planting gardens, not that the SAME garden people are planting BIGGER gardens.

Saying that there is an increase in "the planting of personal gardens" implies that "more people are planting personal gardens".

(D) is wrong because we have no idea whether "economic downturn" applies to the situation at hand. There's no common sense link between an economic downturn and increased produce prices, so we would have no way of guessing whether we're currently in / not in an economic downturn.