Question

Scientist: In an experiment, dogs had access to a handle they could pull to release food into a nearby enclosure that contained a familiar dog and nothing else, contained an unfamiliar dog and nothing else, or was empty. The dogs typically released more food to the familiar dog than to the unfamiliar dog. This suggests that dogs are more motivated to help other dogs they know than to help unfamiliar dogs.

The scientist’s argument would be most strengthened if it were true that, in the experiment, the dogs with access to the handle tended to release more food when

Option A
Option B
Option C
Option D
Option E

(This question is from Official Guide. Therefore, because of copyrights, the complete question cannot be copied here. The question can be accessed at GMAT Club)

Solution

The Story

Scientist: In an experiment, dogs had access to a handle they could pull to release food into a nearby enclosure that contained a familiar dog and nothing else, contained an unfamiliar dog and nothing else, or was empty.

In an experiment, dogs had access to a handle that could be pulled to release food into an enclosure. The enclosure could have one of the three possibilities:

  1. A familiar dog
  2. An unfamiliar dog
  3. Nothing (The enclosure is empty).

The dogs typically released more food to the familiar dog than to the unfamiliar dog.

It was found in the experiment that the dogs released more food to the familiar dog than to the unfamiliar one. (It could be their familiarity that made the dogs do this. We also note that the scientist does not talk about the food released when the enclosure was empty.)

This suggests that dogs are more motivated to help other dogs they know than to help unfamiliar dogs.

The scientist concludes that dogs are more motivated to help familiar dogs than unfamiliar ones. (The conclusion also does not discuss the situation in which the enclosure was empty.)

Gist: Dogs could pull a handle to release food into an enclosure that contained a familiar dog, contained an unfamiliar dog, or was empty. Dogs released more food to the familiar dog than the unfamiliar one (support). Thus, dogs are more motivated to help familiar dogs than unfamiliar ones (conclusion).

The Gap

The scientist treats releasing more food as being more motivated to help. In other words, the argument assumes that the dogs could not have released more food for any reason other than to help the familiar dogs.

Also, the scientist assumes that the dogs recognize the familiar dogs and not the unfamiliar dogs. And that their actions are driven by familiarity and not by any specific situation the enclosure dogs may be in, or any particular actions the dogs may be performing.

The Goal

In what situation if the dogs released more food would the argument get strengthened? In order to strengthen the argument, we may focus on bridging either of the two gaps discussed above. There could be other ways to strengthen the argument as well. Just that we could think of two aspects.

The Evaluation

(A) Incorrect. The conclusion is: “This suggests that dogs are more motivated to help other dogs they know than to help unfamiliar dogs”. If the dogs’ behavior was encouraged by a familiar person, we actually start wondering whether it was the motivation to help that made the dogs release more food, or some external factor not discussed in the passage. It certainly does not strengthen the argument.

Beware of this option. Many times, test-takers end up selecting an answer that actually does the opposite of what has been asked in the question. This answer, if anything, weakens the argument that dogs are more motivated to help familiar dogs.

(B) Incorrect. How dogs react to an empty enclosure compared with one containing an unfamiliar dog does not impact the argument in any way. Even if we take motivation to help as the reason for dogs releasing food, all this option tells us is that dogs are not particularly motivated to help unfamiliar dogs. This does not strengthen the argument that dogs are more motivated to help familiar dogs.

If I simply show Y is low in absolute terms, that does not strengthen that X is more than Y. X may be low as well.

(C) Incorrect. If the behaviour of the dog in the enclosure impacts the other dogs’ propensity to release food in any way, their higher motivation to help familiar dogs, in fact, gets questioned. 

(D) Incorrect. How the dogs with the handle reacted to the enclosure’s dogs’ interest level does not help strengthen the argument at all. In fact, if the enclosure’s dogs’ interest level impacted the propensity of dogs with the handle to release food, we question whether ‘motivation to help’ was the driving factor or not.

(E) Correct. This option compares the reaction to a familiar dog in the enclosure with the reaction to a familiar dog not in the enclosure.

To understand this option, let’s first understand a possible challenge to the given argument. Can somebody argue that the dog with the handle released more food in case of a familiar dog not because it wanted to help the familiar dog but because the presence of the familiar dog stimulated him, in some way, to press the handle more often? Essentially, we are doubting whether there was any ‘intention’ to help. If the dog with the handle released more food just on the sight of the familiar dog, regardless of whether the familiar dog got the food or not, we would have a strong reason to doubt that there was an ‘intention’ to help.

This option is around the above aspect. Since dogs release more food when the familiar dog was in the enclosure, we are further convinced that the dogs wanted to help the familiar dog, and it was not just the sight of a familiar dog that triggered the response. If it were just the sight, then the dogs would have released equal quantities of food even when the visible familiar dog was not inside the enclosure. The dogs releasing less food in this scenario (when the enclosure was empty) lends credence to the notion that the dogs realized that the familiar dogs outside the enclosure will not be helped by the released food, and thus their propensity to release food was lower.

Additional Notes

SC Notes:

“a nearby enclosure that contained a familiar dog and nothing else, contained an unfamiliar dog and nothing else, or was empty” – this is a list of three conditions the enclosure could be in. In order to maintain parallelism with the third element that starts with a different verb ‘was’, the second element of the list also starts with the verb ‘contained’. 

The question stem contains the phrase “if it were true that”. The verb ‘were’ goes with the subject ‘it’. This usage is correct.  Such usage is correct whenever the “if” is used to describe a hypothetical rather than an actual circumstance.

Option A contains two occurrences of ‘being’ and is correct. Not sure from where the myth that options containing the word ‘being’ are incorrect in SC originated, but it is just that – a myth. “Being” is very much a part of the English language and thus has to be perfectly acceptable on GMAT, unless, of course, we believe that the GMAT is not testing English. Probably, French!!

This solution was created by Anish Passi and Chiranjeev Singh.

If you have any doubts regarding any part of this solution, please feel free to ask in the comments section.

>