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What Are Causes?
Causes are the conditions under which an event occurs. For example, can you guess the causes for the following?
1. The police increasing security around the President’s house.
2. Lots of people buying a particular expensive brand of washing machines around Diwali.
Easily, we can guess causes for the above events.
1. There were reports of threats against the President.
2. There was a high discount or sale for that brand during Diwali.
Scientific View of Causes
Now, what is the scientific view of the cause?
1. It is a scientifically proven fact that the cause leads to the effect
2. The effect should logically follow from the same cause.
Sufficient & Necessary Conditions
In a cause and effect question, the cause is the sufficient condition. It is assumed that the sufficient condition of the occurrence of the events must include the different necessary conditions as well.
A necessary condition is one that must be satisfied for the occurrence of an event.
E.g. You must adhere to the deadline to get your work appraised.
This means if you get your work appraised, you have to adhere to the deadline. Or, if you do not do not adhere to the deadline, you do not get your work appraised.
A condition is called a sufficient condition if in a certain event, you are satisfied with the results.
Eg: Being human is a sufficient condition for being a mammal.
The act of being a human is not possible unless one is also a mammal. But it is not necessary that being human is a necessary condition for being a mammal.
Types of Causes
What can be the different causes?
1. Immediate Cause: It immediately precedes the effect. This cause shares the closest proximity with the effect with relation to time.
2. Principal Cause: The most important reason behind the effect. The immediate cause can be the principal cause and vice versa.
3. Independent cause: There is no relationship between the cause and the given effect.
Tips to Solve Cause and Effect Problems with Examples
Let us take the following examples to teach a few tips to master cause and effect.
Directions: Below each question are given two statements (I) and (II). These statements may be either independent causes or may be effects of independent causes or a common cause. One of these statements may be the effect of the other statement. Read both the statements and decide which of the following answer choice correctly depicts the relationship between these two statements.
1. If statement (I) is the cause and statement (II) is the effect.
2. If statement (II) is the cause and statement (I) is the effect.
3. If both the statements (I) and (II) are independent causes.
4. If both the statements (I) and (II) are effects of some independent causes.
5. If both the statements (I) and (II) are effects of some common cause.
1. China became a hotspot for global manufacturing in the late 80s, and continues to be so till the present.
2. China has abundant sources of cheap manpower and natural resources – both of which are essential for industrial growth.
Solution: The reason for China becoming a hotspot for manufacturing globally has been stated in Statement II. The factors of cheap labour and abundance of natural resources contributed to the industrial growth of China in the late 80s and helped it become a manufacturing hub. Thus, statement II is the cause and statement I is the effect. Here, the reason is a principal cause. The words ‘till the present’ also gives an indication that statement 1 cannot be the cause because the cause should always precede the effect.
Tip 1: To effectively answer a cause and effect question, we need to understand the premise under discussion. Here, the premise is China becoming a hotspot for manufacturing and its cause.
1. There is a possibility of snowfall in the next 2 days.
2. The handloom industries increased their production by 50%.
Solution: The possibility of snowfall in the imminent future means that people will need to use woollen wear. To meet this increased demand, handloom industries will step up their production. Thus statement I is the cause and statement II is the effect. This is an immediate cause. Because of the possibility of snowfall, the handloom industry increased the production.
Tip 2: Sometimes, the premise under discussion is not very directly observable. So, we need to use our awareness faculty and take into consideration all the effects of a possible cause.
1. Anu was not granted a visa to the US.
2. Anu’s flight to Denver was delayed by at least fifteen hours
Solution: Sometimes to answer the question, we need to differentiate between what is a cause and what is an effect. Here, both statements are clearly effects. Anu might not have been granted a visa due to some reason (like withholding information, or her having pending criminal cases). However she had no part to play in her flight getting delayed. Indeed, flights don’t get delayed because of one person not having her visa. These things are checked at the immigration department either at the departing airport or the arriving airport. The delay must have been caused by some other reason then (like weather, or crowded airways or runways). These two reasons cannot be related even though the situations are related to the same person.
Tip 3: This is a good example to show that even if the situations are related to the same subject, they might not have a cause and effect relationship between them.
1. Aamir’s movie has crossed the 100 crore mark.
2. His movie has been nominated for the Oscars.
Solution: Here, the reason for the movie being nominated is not that it has crossed the 100 crore mark. Vice versa is also not true. Hence, there is a cause for the movie being nominated and there is a cause for it crossing the 100 crore mark. The possible common cause is that the movie was very good and therefore appreciated by both public and the critics.
Tip 4: Do not try to always fit the statements in a cause-effect relationship. Sometimes, they could be just effects of a common or independent cause.
1. He had not paid the rent.
2. He has not arrived yet.
Solution: Consider this example:
He has not paid the rent because he did not get his salary.
Here, ‘not getting the salary’ is the cause of the effect ‘not paying rent’. Hence, 1 is an effect. Clearly, this makes more sense than this being a cause as nobody would intentionally default on paying his rent.
Also, consider the following example:
He has not arrived yet because of the traffic.
Hence, ‘he has not arrived yet’ is the effect. This also makes more sense than it being a cause because there must be a reason for being later than expected.
These two effects are independent of each other and apply to different situations.
Tip 5: There are some situations which could be either causes or effects. The trick is to identify whether there is any specific effect mentioned in relation to the statements. If there is we take them to be causes. If not, they are most likely effects.
1. The Government recently increased the duty on mid-sized cars.
2. Last year the government had hiked taxes for all industrial activities
Solution: Here, the two statements deal with two different things: ‘duty on cars’ and ‘hiked taxes for industries’. Hence, these two are not related to each other. They are not effects of anything. These rules may, however, affect other things like sales. Hence, these are independent causes.
TIP 6: Tip 5 is not a watertight rule. In this example, we see that the effect has not been mentioned, yet we are considering the statements as causes. In such cases, we need to figure out whether something can cause a wider effect than being a small effect alone. If it more likely causes a wider effect, then it is a cause.