The paradox question type forms part of the Critical Reasoning Evidence Family.
Evidence Family questions are made up entirely of premises, and contain no assumptions either. The family/group has two main types of questions: Inference and Paradox.
As with Inference questions, Paradox/Discrepancy questions consist only of fact-based premises, and no conclusions (though it is possibly to have more claim-like premises).
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Most of the time, two sets of premises will be presented, which will be contradictory in some way and won’t “make sense” together. Sometimes, the argument will include indicator words such as “surprisingly” or “yet” to demonstrate the paradox.
Most question stems under this question type will include some form of the words “explain” or “resolve”. The vast majority will also contain the words “if true”.
Your task on these questions is to find an answer choice that resolves or fixes the discrepancy and makes all of the information make sense together. It’s like if we insert the correct answer into the argument, people should be able to say, “Oh, I see. That makes sense now”, when they read it.
Let’s have a look at an example:
According to researchers, low dosages of aspirin taken daily can significantly reduce the risk of heart attack or stroke. Yet doctors have stopped recommending daily aspirin for most patients.
Which of the following, if true, most helps to explain why doctors no longer recommend daily low dosages of aspirin?
(A) Only a small percentage of patients have already experienced a heart attack or stroke.
(B) Patients who are at low risk for heart attack or stroke are less likely to comply with a doctor’s recommendation to take aspirin daily.
(C) Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, which can lead to internal bleeding, particularly in the stomach or brain.
Breaking it down:
We have been told that the aspirin is apparently beneficial but “doctors have stopped recommending” its use for most people (note that this automatically means that if they’ve had to stop it, they must have been prescribing/recommending aspirin quite a bit prior to this.)
We can understand the following:
Note that, for this question type (paradox), the core (Premise + Therefore=Conclusion) was not set up as part of breaking down the question. This is because, as opposed to the case with the evidence-based inference questions (where, also, only premises and no conclusion is provided), in the paradox questions, we’re not even looking for the conclusion (or the “inference” in the inference question type). Instead, here we’re trying to find a third premise that will help the two given facts make sense together.
In this case of this question, we are interested in highlighting and resolving the apparent discrepancy between the two facts that has created a paradox:
On the one hand, daily aspirin is beneficial, and, on the other, doctors have stopped recommending it.
So now we need to try and figure out why something that was initially recommended, is now being discontinued. Maybe there’s something else that’s bad about taking aspirin daily? Maybe there’s a problem despite the good effects of the aspirin?
Now, if we carefully consider all the given answer choices and match them up against what information we already have, we shall see the following:
Option A suggests that only a small percentage of patients have already experienced a heart attack or stroke, which may have led to the doctors discontinuing aspirin. Now, the problem with this answer choice is that it still leaves behind an ambiguous contradiction. If fewer patients have experienced a heart attack, then that would point towards the aspirin working as a means of heart-attack reduction, if not prevention. And if it is working, then why would the doctors not recommend it? This is not a clear enough answer choice, and should be reconsidered.
Option B suggests that patients who are at low risk for heart attack or stroke are less likely to comply with a doctor’s recommendation to take aspirin daily, which is why the doctors no longer recommend it. This actually seems quite a feasible fit, but only so in the real world. In this question, we are concerned with what the doctor is choosing to do under ideal circumstances, and an ideal, professional doctor will not just stop prescribing the medicine from his/her end just because the patients won’t take it. Also, if this is the case, it is perhaps a bad idea to recommend aspirin to those at low-risk for heart attack anyway.
Option C suggests that Aspirin acts as a blood thinner, which can lead to internal bleeding, particularly in the stomach or brain and thus doctors have stopped prescribing the medicine. This certainly sounds like the perfect fit. Sure-shot serious side-effects such as blood thinning and internal bleeding, particularly in the brain, far outweigh the potential benefit of preventing a heart attack, especially because there can be other feasible ways of prevention if one looks for them.
Clearly, option C is the correct answer.