Confusing Cause with Effect on GMAT Critical Reasoning
Confusing Cause with Effect on CR
In GMAT critical reasoning, there are several different types of questions that you will encounter. In this short article, we will cover the characteristics of questions involving the misidentification of cause and effect and how to solve them.
Confusion between Cause and Effect
This error is said to occur when an argument confuses a “cause” with its “effect”, or the other way around, th “effect” with the “cause”.
Please take a look at the following example and try figuring it out before reading further.
Example 1: Jack teaches mathematics. Jack has excellent numerical skills. Thus, teaching mathematics improves one’s numerical skills.
The problem here is that “Jack teaches mathematics” is being considered the “cause”, and “Jack has excellent numerical skills” is being considered the “effect”. However, practically, it makes more sense that Jack teaches mathematics because
he is good at math, as opposed to Jack taking up teaching math and becoming good at math in the process.
Let us take a look at another example:
Example 2: Every time I dream, I sleep.
The flaw is very clear in this one. This argument makes it sound as if dreaming is the “cause” and sleeping is the “effect. This is, of course, not true. Logically, sleeping is the “cause” and dreaming is the “effect”.
Now, let’s take a look at a more GMAT-like example. Please try to solve it before reading further
Example 3: For the last 5 years, Hannah has suffered from back pain. During the same period, Hannah has never engaged in any physically demanding activity. Therefore, not performing physically demanding activity can lead to back pain.
This example features a similar problem – not engaging in any physically demanding activity is being considered the “cause”, the back pain is being considered the “effect”. However, logically it is entirely possible that Hannah has not performed physically demanding activities because she suffers from back pain, making back pain the “cause” and not performing physically demanding activities the “effect”.
Let’s now take a truly GMAT-like example. Please try this yourself before reading on.
Example 4: A study comparing a group of people displaying anger disorder with an otherwise matched group of people free from anger issues found significantly more neurological disorders among the group exhibiting behavioral disorder comprising explosive outburst of anger. According to researchers, this result supports the hypothesis that anger influences the human body’s neurological condition.
Which of the following, if true, cast the most serious doubt on the interpretation of the researchers?
Here, we have a dialogue followed by a question stem.
Step 1 – Read the question stem.
Step 2 – Read the argument.
Step 3 – Come up with a broad expectation from the correct answer choice.
Here, a clear expectation can be that the passage concludes that anger is the “cause” and neurological condition is the “effect”, whereas it is practically possible that the neurological conditions are the “cause” and anger is the “effect”.
Take a look at the correct answer choice
Option 1: Neurological disorders often cause the suffering individuals to become irritable and prone to anger.
This answer choice reverses the cause-effect relationship, suggesting that the neurological disorders are the “cause” that produces the “effect” of anger. Please note that while this is technically a weakening question, to solve it you must understand the flaw seen in the reasoning here - confusing cause with effect.
This article has deliberately been kept brief; for a more elaborate explanation, please refer to the Experts’ Global Stage One Critical Reasoning videos.