GRE Argument Essay 134
Thirteen years ago, researchers studied a group of 25 infants who showed signs of mild distress when exposed to unfamiliar stimuli such as an unusual odor or a tape recording of an unknown voice. They discovered that these infants were more likely than other infants to have been conceived in early autumn, a time when their mothers’ production of melatonin – a hormone known to affect some brain functions – would naturally increase in response to decreased daylight. In a follow-up study conducted earlier this year, more than half of these children – now teenagers – who had shown signs of distress identified themselves as shy. Clearly, increased levels of melatonin before birth cause shyness during infancy and this shyness continues into later life.
In the given argument, the arguer is convinced that an increased level of melatonin before the birth of a child results in developing a shy behavior in the child’s infancy as well as in later life. He concludes this by giving an account of a study conducted on 25 children for their response to unfamiliar stimuli. Their response was related to their mothers’ increase in production of hormone called melatonin at the time of their pregnancy. The arguer may have presented a convincing argument from his side, but it becomes clear from a detailed analysis of his statement that it lacks logic and sense of judgment. The following discussion exposes this lack of judgment in the composition of the argument and makes the argument incapable of sustaining its convincing power.
The study, as is mentioned in the argument, was conducted on 25 infants. It says that they showed mild distress when exposed to unfamiliar voice and odor. However, this is a normal reaction of infants to unfamiliar stimuli. An infant can recognize only the voice of his family members. If he comes in contact with a stranger, he will feel uncomfortable. In fact, an infant’s heartbeat rises whenever he is in unfamiliar hands since he feels most secure with his own family. Similarly, his sense of smell is a way of recognizing familiar things. He is comfortable with the odor he is used to. On the other hand, he takes time to adjust to any new odor. Until then he will exhibit a discomfort with it. However, the arguer tries to find a conclusion on the basis of this response given by infants, which can be called an absolutely normal behavior.
Moreover, the argument can be criticized for forming conclusions based on a study with limited subjects of only 25 infants. It is inappropriate to apply the result of the study on every infant because a detailed study has not been conducted. Its being conducted thirteen years ago also brings it under scrutiny since the findings of a recent study might differ from the old one.
There isn’t enough evidence provided by the author that these infants have been conceived in early autumn. It is said so since the hormone melatonin was produced increasingly with decreased daylight. Where daylight only begins to decrease in autumn, the days are shortest in winters. Therefore, daylight is minimum in winters and the production of melatonin should be even more than that in autumn. Accordingly, the infants are likely to have been conceived in winters as well. Hence, the argument needs to provide more evidence and reasoning for making it more convincing and reliable.
The follow-up study conducted shows that more than half of the 25 children tested showed signs of distress and identified themselves as shy in their teenage. However, since all children did not identify themselves as shy it cannot be said whether all the infants who showed signs of distress in infancy have developed a shy nature. Moreover, the results of the follow-up conducted are questionable since they are based on self-analysis by children. It is not based on any observation or response given by children. It is likely that some of the children are undergoing a phase where they feel distressed and this is not a normal behavior. Therefore, under the influence of their circumstances they might have termed themselves as shy.
There are many factors that affect the nature of a child. The nature and behavior of a child changes according to his experiences and the exposure he gets as he grows up. Children who are shy in their childhood might overcome this nature and become extroverts in their later lives. On the other hand, due to some circumstances and situations, a child might become shy and timid as he grows up. The effect of the hormone melatonin may not be the reason behind such behavior in the later life of a child. However, the argument only considers the effect of the hormone on the nature of a child and ignores other factors that are responsible for the same.
With such a detailed analysis of the argument, it becomes transparent and the loopholes and shortcoming in the argument become clear. The arguer should therefore consider the discussion given above and amend his statement accordingly.