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Critical Reasoning - Making the Playing Field Level for All!

Usually, questions based on your field of work or interest would be simple to comprehend and relatively easier to answer correctly too. But what happens when say, an Engineer gets a question based on psychiatry? Is he bound to fail? No. Remember that it is a level playing field for test takers from different backgrounds - it doesn’t matter whether your major was literature or physics. If you feel lost on the renaissance painters question, remember that the guy next to you is lost on the system of forces question. 

 

But how can you successfully handle questions from any topic? By sticking to the basics. The logic and reasoning would stay the same no matter from which field the data is picked up. 

 

To give an example of this, let’s today take a look at a question involving psychoanalysis, a subject feared by many! 

 

Question: Studies in restaurants show that the tips left by customers who pay their bill in cash tend to be larger when the bill is presented on a tray that bears a credit-card logo. Consumer psychologists hypothesise that simply seeing a credit-card logo makes many credit-card holders willing to spend more because it reminds them that their spending power exceeds the cash they have immediately available.

 

Which of the following, if true, most strongly supports the psychologists’ interpretation of the studies? 

 

(A) The effect noted in the studies is not limited to patrons who have credit cards. 

(B) Patrons who are under financial pressure from their credit-card obligations tend to tip less when presented with a restaurant bill on a tray with credit-card logo than when the tray has no logo.

(C) In virtually all of the cases in the studies, the patrons who paid bills in cash did not possess credit cards.

(D) In general, restaurant patrons who pay their bills in cash leave larger tips than do those who pay by credit card.

(E) The percentage of restaurant bills paid with given brand of credit card increases when that credit card’s logo is displayed on the tray with which the bill is prepared.

 

Solution: Let's break down the argument:

 

Argument: Studies show that cash tips left by customers are larger when the bill is presented on a tray that bears a credit-card logo. 

 

Why would that be? Why would there be a difference when the tray has no logo and when the tray has a credit card logo?

 

Psychologists' hypothesise that seeing a credit-card logo reminds people of the spending power given by the credit card they carry (and that their spending power exceeds the cash they have right now). 

 

The question asks us to support the psychologists' interpretation. 

 

What is the psychologists’ interpretation of the studies? It is that seeing a logo reminds people of their own credit card status. 

 

Say, we change the argument a little and add a line:

 

Argument: Studies show that cash tips left by customers are larger when the bill is presented on a tray that bears a credit-card logo. Patrons under financial pressure from credit-card obligations tend to tip less when presented with a restaurant bill on a tray with credit-card logo than when the tray has no logo.

 

Now, does the psychologists' interpretation make even more sense? The psychologists' interpretation is only that 'seeing a logo reminds people of their own credit card status'. The part 'that their spending power exceeds the cash they have right now' explains the higher tips. If we are given that some tip more on seeing that card logo and some tip less on seeing it, it makes sense, right? Different people have different credit card obligation status. Hence, people are reminded of their own card obligation status and they tip accordingly. 

 

Option (B) makes the probability of psychologists' interpretation being true stronger because it tells you that in case of very high card obligations, customers tip less. This is what you would expect if the psychologists' interpretation were correct.

 

In simpler terms, the logic is something like this:

 

A: After 12 hrs of night time sleep, I can't study.

B: Yeah, because your sleep pattern is linked to your level of concentration. After a long sleep, your mind is still muddled and lazy so you can’t study. 

A: After only 4 hrs of night time sleep, I can't study either.

 

Does B’s theory make more sense? Sure! B’s theory is that 'sleep pattern is linked to level of concentration'. If A sleeps too much, her concentration gets affected. If she sleeps too little, again her concentration gets affected. So B’s theory certainly makes more sense.

 

Let’s review option (E) since it tends to confuse people. 

 

(E) - 'The percentage of restaurant bills paid with given brand of credit card increases when that credit card's logo is displayed on the tray with which the bill is prepared.'

 

This options supports the hypothesis that card logo reminds people of their own card - not of their card obligations. The psychologists' interpretation talks about the logo reminding people of their card status (high spending power or high obligations). Hence, this option is not correct. 

 

(A) The effect noted in the studies is not limited to patrons who have credit cards. 

 

The argument is focussed on credit cards only hence this is irrelevant.

 

(C) In virtually all of the cases in the studies, the patrons who paid bills in cash did not possess credit cards.

 

This questions the validity of the psychologists' interpretation. Hence this is not correct.

 

(D) In general, restaurant patrons who pay their bills in cash leave larger tips than do those who pay by credit card.

 

The argument deals with people who have cards but are tipping by cash hence this is irrelevant. 

 

Answer (B)

 

Hope you see that if you approach the question logically and stick to the basics, it is not hard to interpret and solve.

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