LSAT Reading : Other Effects of New Information in Social Science Passages

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for LSAT Reading

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Example Questions

Example Question #72 : Social Science

Adapted from The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature by William James (1902)

Most books on the philosophy of religion try to begin with a precise definition of what its essence consists of. Some of these would-be definitions may possibly come before us in later portions of this course, and I shall not be pedantic enough to enumerate any of them to you now. Meanwhile the very fact that they are so many and so different from one another is enough to prove that the word "religion" cannot stand for any single principle or essence, but is rather a collective name. The theorizing mind tends always to the oversimplification of its materials. This is the root of all that absolutism and one-sided dogmatism by which both philosophy and religion have been infested.

Let us not fall immediately into a one-sided view of our subject, but let us rather admit freely at the outset that we may very likely find no one essence, but many characters which may alternately be equally important to religion. If we should inquire for the essence of "government," for example, one man might tell us it was authority, another submission, another police, another an army, another an assembly, another a system of laws; yet all the while it would be true that no concrete government can exist without all these things, one of which is more important at one moment and others at another. The man who knows governments most completely is he who troubles himself least about a definition that shall give their essence. Enjoying an intimate acquaintance with all their particularities in turn, he would naturally regard an abstract conception in which these were unified as a thing more misleading than enlightening. And why may not religion be a conception equally complex?

The author's most likely response to a government recognizing religion as any belief system with regular rituals would be which of the following?

Possible Answers:

The definition of religion should be simpler and more concrete than the government's definition.

An official authority defining religion will do a great deal of good in advancing a clear definition.

Such a definition excludes many groups that could legitimately be called religions.

The government must take such action to appropriately define religion.

Religion is not the kind of subject which a government should be defining in any way whatsoever.

Correct answer:

Such a definition excludes many groups that could legitimately be called religions.


The author's main point is that "religion" is a concept that needs a multifaceted and fluid definition. If a government defined religion with broad yet simplified terms, the definition would go against what the author views an appropriate definition. One cause of such a definition would be that some groups would not be encompassed in the government's official definition.

Example Question #73 : Social Science

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:

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

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

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

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

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

Correct answer:

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


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.

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