Critical Reasoning Question 2
In recent years, attacks by Dobermans on small children have risen dramatically. Last year saw 35 such attacks in the continental United States alone, an increase of almost 21% over the previous year’s total. Clearly, then, it is unsafe to keep dogs as pets if one has small children in the house.
The argument above depends upon which of the following assumptions?
A. No reasonable justification for these attacks by Dobermans on small children has been discovered.
B. Other household pets, such as cats, don’t display the same violent tendencies that dogs do.
C. The number of attacks by Dobermans on small children will continue to rise in the coming years.
D. A large percentage of the attacks by Dobermans on small children could have been prevented by proper training.
E. The behavior toward small children exhibited by Dobermans is representative of dogs in general.
The correct answer is E.
The evidence discusses attacks by Dobermans, but the conclusion is that the dogs-any dogs- are unsafe around little kids. This makes sense only if we assume (E): that Dobermans, in their behavior toward little kids, are generally representative of dogs. A good way of checking assumptions is to see what happens if we take their opposite: if the opposite of a statement weakens the argument, then that statement is assumed; if it doesn’t, it’s not. Here, if Dobermans’ behavior toward small children isn’t typical of dogs, the argument falls apart.
(A), whether the attacks were justified, is beside the point. Even if the kids were pulling the dogs’ tails, the author’s point that the dogs aren’t safe still holds. Other pets are beyond the scope, so (B)’s out. As for (C), the argument doesn’t deal with the future, so the author needn’t assume anything about it. And it certainly wouldn’t weaken the argument if, contrary to (D), many of the attack could not have been prevented, so (D)’s not assumed.