QUESTION TEXT: A spy fails by being caught, and…
QUESTION TYPE: Parallel reasoning
CONCLUSION: We can’t know much about successful spies.
REASONING: We only learn about spies’ methods when they’re caught. And we only catch failed spies.
ANALYSIS: This is a decent argument. It’s also something people don’t think about enough. The author is describing a biased sample. Our data is skewed because we can only learn from spies conditional on them being caught. To parallel this, look for a situation where the data we have is incomplete, because we mainly see evidence of one type and not the other.
- This doesn’t talk about what we can learn. And it isn’t a biased sample.
- CORRECT. This is the best answer. The stimulus says that we normally only hear of failed spies, who were caught. In this answer, unconscious motives are usually impossible to talk about. So, in both cases it’s true that:
1. Usually things are only one way
2. There may be a few exceptions where we learn of successful spies or unconscious motives.
When I first saw this answer, I got caught up in thinking about the fact that successful spies are never caught. But that’s not the key point: the stimulus is clear that there may be other ways we learn about successful spies. This is analogous to possibly learning about unconscious motives.
- This doesn’t match at all. The stimulus’ conclusion was that we can not learn about spies. But this answer says we could learn about success, as long as we have a measurable goal.
- This is likely true, but it doesn’t parallel the stimulus. The answer hasn’t said “we can never know how many people teach”.
- I found this tempting, but it is too strong (and it’s rare I say that about an answer). In this stimulus, we normally only learn about spies when they are captured. So, we might learn about a successful spy in other ways: for example if they wrote a book. But here, the stimulus is saying we never learn about what happens if we hadn’t intervened.
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