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Slippery Slope in GMAT Critical Reasoning

GMAT Slippery Slope Argument FallacyGMAT Critical reasoning assumption questions depend on arguments that involve Slippery Slope. This type of critical reasoning fallacy might not be mentioned in Official GMAT Guide, but the test creators often use this fallacy in various answer choices. It is easy to spot them if you pay attention to how the conclusions are reached.

What is a Slippery Slope?

Slippery Slope is a critical reasoning fallacy where the speaker concludes that some event is bound to follow another event although there is no evidence of the same. Although logically the GMAT test taker might feel that Event B should Follow Event A, there are several intermediate steps or conditions that should be met before Event B immediately follows Event A.

Example

Free Speech Expert : Govt. has set guidelines on Social Media self-censorship. Soon the govt. will control what we can express and what we cannot.

On first read, this statement might seem obvious. But if you pay attention to two words “guidelines” and “self-censorship”, the govt. is not imposing any rules, but they are providing guidelines - not on censorship but on self-censorship.  The argument is a classic example of Slippery Slope. The second statement takes on an extreme Event that is bound to follow – “control what we can express and what we cannot”. The Expert has not separated what we can express on social media from the modes of expression in all other forms of communication. This is an extreme case, and in order for such event to happen, there are several conditions or intermediate events that need to happen.

Let’s go into the details

Event A: Govt. guidelines on Social Media self-censorship

Event B: Govt. will control what we can express and what we cannot

Potential Intermediate Steps

1) Acceptance or Rejection of Guidelines

2) Uniform Regulatory Body to monitor what is acceptable and what is not

3) Finding convergence internationally between govt. and social media platforms on common censorship guidelines.

4) Scaling the self-censorship guidelines to an externally authorized body.

5) Enabling Govt. to offer censorship on all major forms of media.

Although Event B is not impossible, the likelihood depends on several events and actions, and steps 1-5 would be one of the assumptions that the test creators will include in the answer choice.

How do you spot Slippery Slope in Arguments?

1) Pay attention to the words used

Although “self-censorship” and “censorship” might seem like a small difference, the word “self” changes the context of the argument.

2) Author’s Conclusion


The use of the word “Soon” is a giveaway that the fallacy tested here is Slippery Slope. If the author had used a more traditional conclusion words or phrases such as “Therefore”, “This indicates that”, “Hence”, “Consequently”, it would have meant the Event B would be an event that is likely to happen after Event A. Such framing of conclusion can also be part of GMAT Critical reasoning Assumption questions but “Soon” implies testing ‘Slippery Slope’.

3) Event B = Extreme

If Event B is an unlikely likelihood, you have to be on your guard regarding the fallacy of the argument. Some GMAT test takers might rephrase the question into “What should come true in order for such an event to happen?”. This is another way of asking the assumption question. 

Process of elimination is the best approach when it comes to shortlisting the most relevant assumption. Some answer choices seem natural for Event B to happen, but the test taker is asking you to pick the most likely answer choice not the one that just answers the question. Therefore, compare the answer choices and eliminate the irrelevant and weak assumptions.

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