I teach my students to “find the conclusion” as their top priority in answering any LSAT logical reasoning question. That means sifting through the “evidence” in a stimulus to find the main point of the paragraph. In doing so, they often run across sentences that are neither evidence nor the conclusion. One recurring pattern is a sentence near the start of the stimulus that presents some other person’s position on the topic at hand. I call these the “some people say” statements. Here is an example:
It is now a common complaint that the electronic media have corroded the intellectual skills required and fostered by the literary media. But several centuries ago the complaint was that certain intellectual skills, such as the powerful memory and extemporaneous eloquence that were intrinsic to oral culture, were being destroyed by the spread of literacy. So, what awaits us is probably a mere alteration of the human mind rather than its devolution. [June 2007 PrepTest, Section II, Question 11, emphasis supplied.]
The “common complaint” in this stimulus is not the author’s own view, so it isn’t the conclusion. It’s more like the opposite. After reviewing many LSAT questions, I have found that the actual conclusion of the paragraph usually rejects or revises what “some people say.” In fact, the fastest way to find the conclusion may to underline what “some people say” and then negate it.
Let’s test this with all the “some people say” questions on the only publicly available LSAT test (June 2007), beginning with Section II, Question 11 which I quoted above.
Some people say: “electronic media have corroded the intellectual skills required and fostered by the literary media.”
Negation: electronic media have not corroded these intellectual skills.
Conclusion: “what awaits us is probably a mere alteration of the human mind rather than its devolution.”
Section II, Question 16 is a “point of disagreement” question. Taylor, the first speaker, quotes “researchers at a local university.”
Researchers at a university say: “61 percent of information is communicated through nonverbal signals.”
Negation: It is not true that 61 percent of information is communicated through nonverbal signals.
Conclusion: “This claim, like all such mathematically precise claims, is suspect.”
Section II, Question 17 quotes “several computer experts,” but their words are used to support the main argument. This is “evidence,” not what I call “some people say” statements.
Section II, Question 20:
Muñoz says: “the Southwest Hopeville Neighbors Association overwhelmingly opposes the new water system, citing this as evidence of citywide opposition.”
Negation: The SHNA does not overwhelmingly oppose the new system.
Conclusion: “One should not assume that so few votes represent the view of the majority of Hopeville’s residents.”
Section II, Question 21:
My friends say: “I will one day have an accident because I drive my sports car recklessly.”
Negation: I will not have an accident because I drive my sports car recklessly.
Conclusion: “trading my sports car in for a minivan would lower my risk of having an accident.”
Note: this is the only example in this PrepTest where the conclusion is not logically identical to the negation of what “some people say.”
Section III, Question 5:
An early entomologist says: “ants were bringing food to their neighbors.”
Negation: ants were not bringing food to their neighbors.
Conclusion: “the early entomologist was wrong.”
Section III, Question 9:
Recent claims: “the Tasmanian tiger is not extinct.”
Negation: the Tasmanian tiger is extinct.
Conclusion: “recent claims that the Tasmanian tiger is not extinct are false.”
Repeated conclusion: “the Tasmanian tiger no longer exists.”
Section III, Question 19 begins with “Many candidates say that if elected they will reduce governmental intrusion into voters’ lives.” This is a promise of future action, not a statement that can be negated. As a result, this is not an example of the “some people say” rule.
Section III, Question 24:
Romantics claim: “people are not born evil but may be made evil by the imperfect institutions that they form.”
Negation: people are born evil or people are not made evil by the imperfect institutions that they form.
Conclusion: “Romantics who claim that people are not born evil but may be made evil by the imperfect institutions that they form cannot be right.”
Section III, Question 25:
Some anthropologists claim: “the human species could not have survived prehistoric times if the species had not evolved the ability to cope with diverse natural environments.”
Negation: the human species could have survived prehistoric times if the species had not evolved the ability to cope with diverse natural environments.
Conclusion: “the anthropologists’ claim is false.”
The bottom line: the vast majority of “some people say” statements point right towards the conclusion. You need to exercise a little caution with this–the “some people say” phenomenon is not some rule of logic that is always necessarily true. Think of it as a principle, not a rule. But if finding the conclusion is still hard for you, the “some people say” principle may help you find it faster!