Which one of the following most accurately summarizes the main idea of the passage?

Jeremy on April 7, 2019

How can B be the correct answer?

I initially chose D, which is at least reflected in the passage, though I see why it is not the best choice for what summarizes the main idea of the passage. C seems more broadly reflective of the passage and would make sense to me as an answer choice. But B? Not only is it false - it states "Although the reactions most commonly displayed by participants in the Ultimatum Game appear to conflict with rational self-interest ..." while the passage's only reference to contradicting self-interest concerns the "4 in 100" who "offer less than 20 percent," who are far fewer than "most" - but it would also seem to be wrong for the same reason as D (i.e., that it is too specific). How can it be the correct answer?

3 Replies

Victoria on April 8, 2019

Hi @JeremyG

This is a complicated passage. There's a lot going on here.

You were correct in saying that D is not the best answer choice; however, it is not because it is too specific. Answer choice D claims that people respond emotionally to low offers because they instinctively feel the need to maintain the strength of their social group. The passage claims that people respond emotionally to low offers "because we instinctively feel the need to reject dismal offers in order to keep our self-esteem" which then benefits us in future encounters. The issue with D is that it explains emotional responses using the weaker explanation, according to the author.

As for C, the issue is that it is too specific as an answer choice. It is correct in the information that it presents, but it neglects to mention the Ultimatum Game, which is a necessary part of the author's message. Therefore, C does not adequately sum up the passage as a whole.

B is the correct answer in this case as it reflects the passage's entire argument. I agree with your issue with the wording of this answer choice; however, the passage is also unclear in what it is referring to as "such a small amount." Prior to stating that offering a small amount is risky, the passage offers two options less than 50% which, if considered together, would account for "most" of the participants.
As for rational self-interest, the passage states after this: "responders who reject an offer receive nothing, so if one assumes - as theoretical economics traditionally has - that people make economic decisions primarily out of rational self-interest, one would expect that an individual would accept any offer." The passage is attempting to explain why individuals do not act in their own rational self-interest in the case of the Ultimatum Game by exploring two potential evolutionary explanations.

As B discusses the Ultimatum Game, the fact that decisions made by participants in this game can appear to conflict with rational self-interest, and the author's preferred explanation of how our emotional apparatus was evolutionarily valuable when we lived in small groups, it is the most accurate answer choice.

Hope this is helpful! Let us know if you have any further questions.

Jeremy on April 9, 2019

Hi Victoria, thanks for the follow up. That is very helpful!

Victoria on May 15, 2019

Hi @JeremyG happy to help! Let us know if you have any more questions.