GMAT Verbal : Making Inferences in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for GMAT Verbal

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Example Questions

Example Question #1 : Inference About The Author

Adapted from “Introductory Remarks” in The Interpretation of Dreams by Sigmund Freud (trans. 1913)

In attempting to discuss the interpretation of dreams, I do not believe that I have overstepped the bounds of neuropathological interest. For, when investigated psychologically, the dream proves to be the first link in a chain of abnormal psychic structures whose other links—the hysterical phobia, the obsession, and the delusion—must interest the physician for practical reasons. The dream can lay no claim to a corresponding practical significance; however, its theoretical value is very great, and one who cannot explain the origin of the content of dreams will strive in vain to understand phobias, obsessive and delusional ideas, and likewise their therapeutic importance.

While this relationship makes our subject important, it is responsible also for the deficiencies in this work. The surfaces of fracture, which will be frequently discussed, correspond to many points of contact where the problem of dream formation informs more comprehensive problems of psychopathology which cannot be discussed here. These larger issues will be elaborated upon in the future.

Peculiarities in the material I have used to elucidate the interpretation of dreams have rendered this publication difficult. The work itself will demonstrate why all dreams related in scientific literature or collected by others had to remain useless for my purpose. In choosing my examples, I had to limit myself to considering my own dreams and those of my patients who were under psychoanalytic treatment. I was restrained from utilizing material derived from my patients' dreams by the fact that during their treatment, the dream processes were subjected to an undesirable complication—the intermixture of neurotic characters. On the other hand, in discussing my own dreams, I was obliged to expose more of the intimacies of my psychic life than I should like, more so than generally falls to the task of an author who is not a poet but an investigator of nature. This was painful, but unavoidable; I had to put up with the inevitable in order to demonstrate the truth of my psychological results at all. To be sure, I disguised some of my indiscretions through omissions and substitutions, though I feel that these detract from the value of the examples in which they appear. I can only express the hope that the reader of this work, putting himself in my difficult position, will show patience, and also that anyone inclined to take offense at any of the reported dreams will concede freedom of thought at least to the dream life.

Based on what is stated in the passage, one can infer that the author __________.

Possible Answers:

is not himself a psychologist

believes himself to have no “intermixture of neurotic characters” 

is unable to make sense of his own dreams

is famous

is participating in a tradition of studying dreams in a psychological light

Correct answer:

believes himself to have no “intermixture of neurotic characters” 

Explanation:

When answering this question, it is important to rely only on information presented in the passage and not bring in anything you may know about Freud. You may have heard of Freud, and might assume that the answer has to be “is famous,” but nothing in the passage suggests that Freud is famous, so this cannot be the correct answer. The way in which the author justifies his work in the first paragraph suggests that this is the first study of its kind, instead of part of a tradition of studying dreams in a psychological light; this is particularly visible when the author begins by stating, “In attempting to discuss the interpretation of dreams, I do not believe that I have overstepped the bounds of neuropathological interest. For, when investigated psychologically, the dream proves to be the first link in a chain of abnormal psychic structures.” In the third paragraph, the author refers to using the dreams of “[his] patients who were under psychoanalytic treatment,” so we cannot assume that he “is not himself a psychologist,” as he seems to be one. The author included his own dreams in the study, so we can infer that he can make some sense of them; this allows us to discard the answer choice “is unable to make sense of his own dreams.” This leaves us with the correct answer, “believes himself to have no ‘intermixture of neurotic characters’.” You could also arrive at this answer by considering how, in the third paragraph, the author writes, “I was restrained from utilizing material derived from my patients' dreams by the fact that during their treatment, the dream processes were subjected to an undesirable complication—the intermixture of neurotic characters.” He then goes on to say that when discussing his own dreams, he “was obliged to expose more of the intimacies of [his] psychic life than [he] should like.” The fact that he constrains the perceived “intermixture of neurotic characters” to his patients in this way and addresses a different reason why he didn’t want to discuss his own dreams supports the idea that he believes himself to have no “intermixture of neurotic characters.”

Example Question #102 : Social Studies

Adapted from "Federalist No. 46. The Influence of the State and Federal Governments Compared" by James Madison in The Federalist Papers by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay (1788)

I proceed to inquire whether the federal government or the state governments will have the advantage with regard to the predilection and support of the people. Notwithstanding the different modes in which they are appointed, we must consider both of them as substantially dependent on the great body of the citizens of the United States. I assume this position here as it respects the first, reserving the proofs for another place. The federal and state governments are in fact but different agents and trustees of the people, constituted with different powers, and designed for different purposes. The adversaries of the Constitution seem to have lost sight of the people altogether in their reasonings on this subject, and to have viewed these different establishments not only as mutual rivals and enemies, but as uncontrolled by any common superior in their efforts to usurp the authorities of each other. These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error. They must be told that the ultimate authority, wherever the derivative may be found, resides in the people alone, and that it will not depend merely on the comparative ambition or address of the different governments, whether either, or which of them, will be able to enlarge its sphere of jurisdiction at the expense of the other. Truth, no less than decency, requires that the event in every case should be supposed to depend on the sentiments and sanction of their common constituents.

What can we infer about the author's feelings about the Constitution based on the passage?

Possible Answers:

The author opposes the Constitution because he believes that it will create a federal government that is too weak to govern effectively.

The author likely has mixed feelings about the potential of the Constitution to create an effective federal government.

The author likely opposes the Constitution because he believes that it will create too strong of a federal government.

The author is neutral about the Constitution but feels that its detractors have been overly zealous.

The author is likely a supporter of the Constitution.

Correct answer:

The author is likely a supporter of the Constitution.

Explanation:

We can infer that the author of this passage supports the Constitution for a number of reasons. On one hand, he refers to "The adversaries of the Constitution" as "These gentleman" in the sentence "These gentlemen must here be reminded of their error." Since the author is not including himself with "these gentlemen," he is not including himself with the Constitutions' adversaries, so he does not oppose it. In saying that they need to be "reminded of their error," he is suggesting that the adversaries of the Constitution are wrong in some respect, providing evidence that he probably supports the constitution and opposes its adversaries. 

Example Question #2 : Other Effects Of New Information In Social Science Passages

Adapted from The Family Among the Australian Aborigines: a Sociological Study by Bronislaw Malinowski (1913)

It seems beyond doubt that in the aboriginal society the husband exercised almost complete authority over his wife; she was entirely in his hands and he might ill-treat her, provided he did not kill her. Out of our thirty statements, in six cases (Kurnai, Bangerang, Lower Murray tribes, according to Bonney, Geawe-Gal, Port Jackson tribes, North-west Central Queenslanders) the absolute authority of the husband is explicitly affirmed. We read in them either the bare statement that the husband had an absolute power over his family; or, in the better of them, we are more exactly informed that he had only to abstain from inflicting death on his wife. It was the latter's kinsman who would avenge her (Kurnai, Bangerang, North-west Central Queenslanders). It is difficult to ascertain in what form society would interfere with the husband if he transgressed the limits of his legal authority, i. e. killed his wife. Curr informs us that the woman's relatives would avenge her death. Howitt says that there would ensue a blood feud, which comes nearly to the same. It is very probable that the woman's kin retained some rights of protection. The remaining statements implicitly declare that the husband's authority was very extensive. (Encounter Bay tribes according to Meyer; New South Wales tribes according to Hodgson; Port Stephens tribes according to R. Dawson; Arunta; Herbert River tribes; Queenslanders according to Palmer; Moreton Bay tribes according to J. D. Lang; South-Western tribes according to Salvado; West Australians according to Grey.) It is clear that wherever we read of excessive harshness and bad treatment, wounds, blows inflicted on women, the husband must possess the authority to do it; in other words, he does not find any social barrier preventing him from ill-treatment. Especially as, in these statements, such ill-treatment is mentioned to be the rule and not an exception. In two statements we can gather no information on this point. According to the statement of J. Dawson on the West Victoria tribes, the husband's authority appears strictly limited by the potential intervention of the chief, who could even divorce the woman if she complained. But Curr warns us against Dawson's information concerning the chief and his power. Curr's arguments appear to be very conclusive. Too much weight cannot be attached, therefore, to Dawson's exceptional statement. Discarding it, we see that we have on this point fairly clear information. We may assume that society interfered but seldom with the husband, in fact, only in the extreme case of his killing his wife. Six statements are directly, and the remainder indirectly, in favor of this view, and the only one contradictory is not very trustworthy.

If information were presented that showed some aboriginal societies gave women a large amount of authority, the effect on the passage would be to __________.

Possible Answers:

show a different form of authority in marriage than the one presented by the author

reinforce the point made in "Dawson's exceptional statement."

make it easier to compare Australian aboriginal marriage practices with other types of marriage practices

further help the author's portrayal of the nature of authority in Australian aboriginal society

cause the author to view Australian aboriginal marriage practices in a less favorable light

Correct answer:

show a different form of authority in marriage than the one presented by the author

Explanation:

The passage neatly outlines how authority is vested in husbands in Australian aboriginal marriages. A piece of information that highlights women's authority would contradict the main information presented in the passage; however, since the author portrays the information in a calm manner, it would have simply presented a new piece of evidence for the author.

Example Question #1 : Extrapolating From The Text In Social Science Passages

The days of the amateur in intercollegiate athletics are numbered.  College athletes are amateurs only in name and in the ill-defined mandates of outdated policies.  They generate annual revenues which are estimated to be over $15 billion in the United States alone.  Their efforts and images generate income from ticket sales, television and radio contracts, and merchandising.  Yet, the bulk of this money goes directly to individual universities who then enforce codes that keep athletes from having the same opportunities to earn money as their peers. Clearly, it is time for American colleges to reevaluate this injustice.

Recent lawsuits involving the use images of current and former athletes in video games has shed light on just how draconian the treatment of college athletes can be.  While millions of dollars are generated from video game sales, the same students whose images adorn the games cannot hold part-time jobs nor can they be given airfare to return home in time of family crisis unless it involves a death. Little or no health insurance or benefits are provided for athletes to deal with the after-effects of injuries that often last long after the student has left college. Unlike most colleges students athletes, in many ways, are treated more like indentured servants than like the highly visible and high valuable representatives of their institutions that they are.

Based on the passage, it can reasonably be inferred that the author of this passage is _______________.

Possible Answers:

a casual fan of intercollegiate athletics

a lawyer who is seeking to sue video game companies for using the images of college athletes

someone who has only a limited interest in intercollegiate athletics

a former college athlete who does not feel that he or she was treated fairly

an athletic administrator at a large American university

Correct answer:

a former college athlete who does not feel that he or she was treated fairly

Explanation:

The author clearly has a passionate interest in the topic. Since the lawsuits mentioned are in the past, we cannot assume that the author is a lawyer. The specific references to policies that affect college athletes are a strong clue that the author was an athlete him or her self. Keep in mind that you are asked to choose the best answer to the question, and to assess the relative accuracy of each answer as compared to the others. The correct answer, while not ironclad, is by far the most reasonable of the given options.

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