hapter Seven: Cause and
What is Causality?
When examining events, people naturally seek to explain why things
happened. This search often results in cause and effect reasoning, which
asserts or denies that one thing causes another, or that one thing is caused by
another. On the GMAT, cause and effect reasoning appears in many Critical
Reasoning problems, often in the conclusion where the author mistakenly
claims that one event causes another. For example:
Last week Apple announced a quarterly deficit and the stock market
dropped 10 points. Thus, Apple’s announcement must have caused the
Like the above conclusion, most causal conclusions are flawed because there
can be alternate explanations for the stated relationship: another cause could
account for the effect; a third event could have caused both the stated cause
and effect; the situation may in fact be reversed; the events may be related but
not causally; or the entire occurrence could be the result of chance.
In short, causality occurs when one event is said to make another occur.
The cause is the event that makes the other occur; the effect is the event that
follows from the cause. By definition, the cause must occur before the effect,
and the cause is the “activator” or “ignitor” in the relationship. The effect
always happens at some point in time after the cause.
How to Recognize Causality
A cause and effect relationship has a signature characteristic—the cause
makes the effect happen. Thus, there is an identifiable type of expression
used to indicate that a causal relationship is present. The list on the following
page contains a number of the phrases used by the makers of the GMAT to
introduce causality, and you should be on the lookout for those when reading
Critical Reasoning stimuli.
Chapter Seven: Cause and Effect Reasoning
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