Critical Analysis Chapter 8: Are There Rival Causes?

For the assigned passage(s), identify the thesis and reasons. Then, identify the problems with the causal reasoning (see the lecture summary notes below for help with this). Next, identify plausible rival causes. Please use complete sentences, not simply phrases or single words, in all segments of your answers. Also, avoid quoting full sentences. Paraphrase instead.

Passage 1
A little bit of light may beat the winter blues. Researchers studied nine patients who suffered from winter depression, which is caused by the days getting shorter. The patients were exposed to bright fluorescent light upon awakening and in the late afternoon, for three hours at a time. Within a week, seven of the patients had recovered from their depression completely, and the other two showed modest improvement. The light treatment works because it tricks the body into thinking that it’s summer.

Passage 2
There are hopeful signs for American education today. For example, there are now real signs of progress in raising the learning level, at least among college bound high-school students. Scores of the 1985 Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) took the biggest upward leap in 21 years. For almost a decade scores have been gradually rising. After reaching an all-time low score in 1980 and 1981, the scores gained three points in 1982, stayed the same in 1983, increased a strong 4 points in 1984, and increased a whopping 9 points in 1985. Education Secretary William Bennet called the scores “further evidence that American secondary education is on the mend.”

Passage 3
“Laughter may indeed be the best medicine! The case of Norman Cousins, former editor of the Saturday Review, proves to us once again that experiencing positive emotions, especially laughter, can be a powerful healing force, capable of inducing major chemical changes in our body. The Cousins story began in 1964, when Mr. Cousins returned from a trip to the Soviet Union with stiffness in his limbs and nodules on his neck and hands. Tests resulted in a tentative diagnosis of ankylosing spondylitis, a degenerative disease of the connective tissue. After suffering adverse reactions to most of the drugs he was given, Cousins decided, with the cooperation of his doctor, to treat himself, relying upon various articles he had read about the positive qualities ascribed to vitamin C and the health-inducing effect of positive emotions.
Cousins checked out of the hospital and into a hotel, went off all his drugs and initiated a treatment regimen of regular, large intravenous injections of vitamin C. He also arranged for showings of laugh-provoking films, including old excerpts from “Candid Camera,” and he read amusing books. While thus treating himself, he reports experiencing a gradual withdrawal of symptoms, and gradually regaining most freedom of movement. By 1976, he wrote he had become pain free except for his knees for the first time he had left the hospital.”

Passage 4
Sixty students at the University of Wisconsin recently agreed to participate in a program designed to improve their dating skills.
The students who volunteered for the program averaged one date during the month prior to the participation in the dating-skills program. The 60 students were divided into three groups: One group had six “practice” dates with six different volunteers; a second group also had six “practice” dates and received feedback from their dates concerning their appearance and behavior; a third group served as a control.
Before and after the practice dates each group filled out social anxiety questionnaires and rated themselves in terms of social skills. Both of the two groups who had practice dates experienced less social anxiety, a higher sense of self-confidence in social situations, and more dates than did the control group. Apparently practice dating improves the quality of our social life.

Lecture Summary: Rival Hypotheses

1. Observer expectancy effect – The interviewer, observer, or author of the study may make errors in his observations because he expects certain results
2. Participant expectancy – The interviewee or subject may make false reports to the observer out of a desire to see the study or succeed or to please the observer
3. Maturation and life experiences over time – The longer a study or observation takes, the greater the likelihood that changes occur in the subjects over time.
4. Biased sample selection – If the sample contains some form of bias, the bias rather than any other cause may explain the results.
5. Linked causal influences – Remember the Pepsi Challenge discussed in class. Two or more causes together, rather than just a single isolated cause, may influence the observed effect.
6. Regression effects – The role of chance fluctuations over time. The higher or lower something gets over time – like the economy or test scores or batting averages – the greater the likelihood is that it will reverse direction.


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