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Toughest LSAT Questions: PrepTest 38, Section 4, Q16

Hey there!

Today we’re going to look at a tough conditional reasoning question from the Oct. 2002 test. (Section 4 #16. The content is about trust and confidence). (Go ahead and look it up. I’ll wait!)

This question produces wild head-scratching, so I thought we’d take a look. Even though our question stem tells us that this is an assumption question, there are many skills we get to unpack here– including conditional reasoning, (woohoo!) but also including parts of arguments.

Argument Construction:
First, let’s take a look at how this argument is constructed. When we read an argument, the first thing we do is find the conclusion.  In this case, we’re going to rely on our handy conclusion indicator words. I don’t see my favorites–thus! and therefore! –but I do see that sneaky little word ‘SO’.   Remember that the word ‘so’ marks what follows as a conclusion.

That makes the other two phrases our premises.  And one of them is even marked with a premise indicator word, ‘since’.

Our job now, is to see if the conclusion follows properly from the premises. Piece of cake, right?

LSAC has given us a hint in their question stem. They say that the conclusion depends on some assumption for it to follow properly. In other words, there’s a gap of some kind that we need to create a bridge for.

Ok. Let’s get to work. We start by diagramming our sentences using our if/then skills.

But wait, how do we know that this is a conditional reasoning question?

Are you sure this is conditional reasoning?
Remember that not all conditional reasoning sentences use the words “If/then”, but often use the phrase  “People who”.  In this case, we have a set of three conditional reasoning statements using the phrase “people who”, two of which are the premises and one of which is the conclusion.

Remember the right answer for a conditional reasoning assumption question will be some fact or conditional statement that allows us to create an unbroken chain from some initial condition to some final conclusion.

Let’s Diagram!
Ok, our first step is to diagram these statements.  The passage opens with a statement about a group of people–those who don’t believe that others distrust them. I’m going to call them -D. We know that people who are -D always have a particular characteristic– they are confident.  Let’s use the letter C for that.  Here’s how that diagram looks:

1)             -D C

Our second phrase is the conclusion so we’ll do that last, but the third phrase, which states that people who are confident in their abilities see ‘such tasks’ as being challenging. That sentence can be diagrammed like this:

2)            C → Ch.

Where people who are confident see difficult tasks as challenges.

Because the necessary condition of statement 1 is the same as the sufficient condition of statement 2, we can link these two statements into a chain like this:

3)            -D→ C →Ch.

Where people who don’t distrust others are confident, and those people in turn see difficult tasks as challenges.

Now let’s look at our conclusion to see if our chain above matches the conclusion, or whether something is missing.

The conclusion says people who trust others see difficulties as challenges.  We can diagram that idea this way:

4)            T→ Ch.

Bridging the Gap:
Does statement 4 match the chain we made in statement 3 above?   Um. kind of.  It ends the same way, with the Ch.  And the beginning is very similar,  right? The both talk about trust, right? But they aren’t exactly the same.  The only way we can make statements 3 and 4 the same is if we make some assumptions about People who Trust Others, and People Who Don’t Think Others Distrust them.  What if we make the following assumption?

5)            T→ -D

(People Who Trust Others Don’t Think Others Distrust Them)

Look what happens!  We can now link everything together and it all works!  Like this:

6)             T → -D → C → Ch.

How cool is that! We’re done! Oh, except, now we need to find the right answer.
Finding the right answer:
Now you need to find the answer that uses the words we used in statement 5 above. (Be careful of answer choice A, it uses the right words, but has them in the wrong order.)  For this reason, the correct response is C.

Once you get the hang of conditional reasoning, it becomes really straightforward, because the rules are so black and white. Once you recognize that conditional reasoning is present, and once you learn how to diagram and link, you’ll be able to spot the holes in the reasoning immediately.  You might even start to think of these as your favorite questions, because they are SO OBVIOUS once you learn the code.

I hope this helps!

See ya!

Leigh Miller

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