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CAT Critical Reasoning Practice question with Solution 20

Studies of brain lateralization in animals have purported to show that, whereas most human beings are right-handed, about half of any given group of animals will be “left-handed” (i.e., showing a preference for their left limbs) and half will be “right-handed.” This finding is suspect, however; it has long been noted that dogs will almost always “shake hands” with the right paw.

Which one of the following, if true, is the strongest defence against the counterexample of dogs that “shake hands”?

[A]. Dogs are observed to scratch themselves with the left leg as well as with the right leg.
[B]. People who observe dogs “shaking hands” are observing a behaviour that dogs perform only with a front paw.
[C]. Left-handed people sometimes feel inconvenienced or even stigmatized in a “right-handed world,” but dogs face no analogous difficulties.
[D]. Dogs that have lost a limb are able to compensate for the loss, regardless of whether the limb was lost from the right or left side.
[E]. In learning to perform tricks, dogs are influenced by the behaviour of their trainers.
Answer: E

Most humans are right-handed, but what about animals? Are animals equally likely to have a preference for their left limbs as their right limbs? Certain studies say that animals will be equally likely to be “right-handed” as “left-handed,” but the author disagrees. In support, the author notes that dogs often “shake hands” with their right paw. OK, so what? Suppose, as (E) suggests, that dogs are influenced by their masters in learning to perform tricks like “shaking hands.” In that case, we would expect that since most masters (presumably humans) are right-handed, most dogs would be taught to perform tricks in a “right-pawed” manner. So if (E) is true, it isn’t the dogs that are showing a preference for their right limbs at all. Rather, dogs that “shake hands” with their right paws are merely reflecting the preferences of their masters.

(A) and (D) are out of the scope. We’re asked to explain why the “shaking hands” evidence does not weaken the claim that animals will be equally likely to favor their right limbs as opposed to their left limbs. Answer choices (A) and (D) completely ignore the curious findings regarding “shaking hands,” and so cannot help in a defense against this supposed counterexample. Choices (A) and (D) do provide some evidence that dogs show no preference for their right limbs in other respects, which might help counter the claim that dogs have a tendency to be “right-handed” in all respects, but that’s the subject of another question.

(B) The evidence is unrepresentative, but not for the reason in (B). There’s no grounds for being especially suspicious of “front-paw-only” behavior.

(C) implies that dogs are exempt from the kinds of societal pressures and inconveniences facing left-handed humans. Inferably, then, dogs aren’t pressured in any way to shake hands with their right paw—they simply do so naturally. Thus, if anything, (C) strengthens the validity of the counterexample by ruling out an alternative explanation for the dogs’ noted behavior. (Notice how this differs from correct choice (E), which provides an alternative explanation for why dogs usually “

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