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Concept: Argument


Every day, thousands of polls, surveys, and rating scales are employed to elicit the attitudes of humankind. Given the ubiquitous use of these instruments, it seems we ought to have firm answers to what is measured by them, but unfortunately we do not. To help remedy this situation, we present a novel approach to investigate the nature of attitudes. We created a self-transforming paper survey of moral opinions, covering both foundational principles, and current dilemmas hotly debated in the media. This survey used a magic trick to expose participants to a reversal of their previously stated attitudes, allowing us to record whether they were prepared to endorse and argue for the opposite view of what they had stated only moments ago. The result showed that the majority of the reversals remained undetected, and a full 69% of the participants failed to detect at least one of two changes. In addition, participants often constructed coherent and unequivocal arguments supporting the opposite of their original position. These results suggest a dramatic potential for flexibility in our moral attitudes, and indicates a clear role for self-attribution and post-hoc rationalization in attitude formation and change.

Concepts: Addition, Change, Morality, Social psychology, Argument, Magic, Reversal, Arguments


Recent advances have made it possible to analyze high-throughput marker-gene sequencing data without resorting to the customary construction of molecular operational taxonomic units (OTUs): clusters of sequencing reads that differ by less than a fixed dissimilarity threshold. New methods control errors sufficiently such that amplicon sequence variants (ASVs) can be resolved exactly, down to the level of single-nucleotide differences over the sequenced gene region. The benefits of finer resolution are immediately apparent, and arguments for ASV methods have focused on their improved resolution. Less obvious, but we believe more important, are the broad benefits that derive from the status of ASVs as consistent labels with intrinsic biological meaning identified independently from a reference database. Here we discuss how these features grant ASVs the combined advantages of closed-reference OTUs-including computational costs that scale linearly with study size, simple merging between independently processed data sets, and forward prediction-and of de novo OTUs-including accurate measurement of diversity and applicability to communities lacking deep coverage in reference databases. We argue that the improvements in reusability, reproducibility and comprehensiveness are sufficiently great that ASVs should replace OTUs as the standard unit of marker-gene analysis and reporting.The ISME Journal advance online publication, 21 July 2017; doi:10.1038/ismej.2017.119.

Concepts: DNA, Molecular biology, Biotechnology, Sequence, Logic, Resolution, Units of measurement, Argument


Two Australian government inquiries have recently called for the release of information to donor-conceived people about their gamete donors. A national inquiry, recommended ‘as a matter of priority’ that uniform legislation to be passed nationwide. A state-based inquiry argued that all donor-conceived people should have access to information and called for the enactment of retrospective legislation that would override donor anonymity. This paper responds to an opinion piece published in Human Reproduction in October 2012 by Professor Pennings in which he criticized such recommendations and questioned the motives of people that advocate for information release. I answer the arguments of Pennings, and argue that all parties affected by donor conception should be considered, and a compromise reached. The contact veto system is one such compromise. I discuss the education and support services recommended by the Victorian government and question Pennings' assertions that legislation enabling information release will lead to a decrease in gamete donation. Finally, I rebut Pennings' assertion that there is a ‘hidden agenda’ behind the call for information release. There is no such agenda in my work. If there is from others, then it is their discriminatory views that need to be addressed, not the move toward openness and honesty or the call for information by donor-conceived people.

Concepts: Reproduction, Critical thinking, Organ donation, Logic, Argument, Inquiry, Arguments, Human reproduction


Weight-related issues (including excess weight, disordered eating and body concerns) are often considered as comprising distinct domains of ‘obesity’ and ‘eating disorders’. In this commentary we argue that the concept of weight bias is an important variable when considering wellbeing across the spectrum of weight-related issues. We make the following six points in support of this argument: i) weight bias is common and has adverse health consequences, ii) shaming individuals for their body weight does not motivate positive behaviour change, iii) internalized weight bias is particularly problematic, iv) public health interventions, if not carefully thought out, can perpetuate weight bias, v) weight bias is a manifestation of social inequity, and vi) action on weight bias requires an upstream, population-level approach. To achieve sustainable reductions in weight bias at a population level, substantive modifications and collaborative efforts in multiple settings must be initiated. We provide several examples of population-level interventions to reduce weight bias.

Concepts: Public health, Critical thinking, Nutrition, Following, Sociology, Logic, Collaboration, Argument


Reasoning research suggests that people use more stringent criteria when they evaluate others' arguments than when they produce arguments themselves. To demonstrate this “selective laziness,” we used a choice blindness manipulation. In two experiments, participants had to produce a series of arguments in response to reasoning problems, and they were then asked to evaluate other people’s arguments about the same problems. Unknown to the participants, in one of the trials, they were presented with their own argument as if it was someone else’s. Among those participants who accepted the manipulation and thus thought they were evaluating someone else’s argument, more than half (56% and 58%) rejected the arguments that were in fact their own. Moreover, participants were more likely to reject their own arguments for invalid than for valid answers. This demonstrates that people are more critical of other people’s arguments than of their own, without being overly critical: They are better able to tell valid from invalid arguments when the arguments are someone else’s rather than their own.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Cognition, Thought, Logic, Reasoning, Argument, Fallacy, Attacking Faulty Reasoning


Analogical reasoning is vital to advanced cognition and behavioral adaptation. Many theorists deem analogical thinking to be uniquely human and to be foundational to categorization, creative problem solving, and scientific discovery [1]. Comparative psychologists have long been interested in the species generality of analogical reasoning, but they initially found it difficult to obtain empirical support for such thinking in nonhuman animals (for pioneering efforts, see [2, 3]). Researchers have since mustered considerable evidence and argument that relational matching-to-sample (RMTS) effectively captures the essence of analogy, in which the relevant logical arguments are presented visually [4]. In RMTS, choice of test pair BB would be correct if the sample pair were AA, whereas choice of test pair EF would be correct if the sample pair were CD. Critically, no items in the correct test pair physically match items in the sample pair, thus demanding that only relational sameness or differentness is available to support accurate choice responding. Initial evidence suggested that only humans and apes can successfully learn RMTS with pairs of sample and test items [4-7]; however, monkeys have subsequently done so [8-12]. Here, we report that crows too exhibit relational matching behavior. Even more importantly, crows spontaneously display relational responding without ever having been trained on RMTS; they had only been trained on identity matching-to-sample (IMTS). Such robust and uninstructed relational matching behavior represents the most convincing evidence yet of analogical reasoning in a nonprimate species, as apes alone [7] have spontaneously exhibited RMTS behavior after only IMTS training.

Concepts: Psychology, Critical thinking, Thought, Logic, Problem solving, Analogy, Inductive reasoning, Argument


Amniotic membrane is immunologically privileged and is a reservoir of growth factors and cytokines known to modulate inflammation and enhance the healing process, while also possessing antimicrobial, antifibrosis, and antiscarring properties. These properties establish a strong argument for using amniotic membrane derived products as a treatment for burns. The purpose of this article is to describe the use of commercially available dehydrated human amnion/chorion membrane allografts in patients with partial-thickness and full-thickness burns.

Concepts: Immune system, Wound healing, Healing, Amniotic sac, Burn, Amniotic fluid, Argument, Amnion


Reproductive genetic technologies (RGTs) allow parents to decide whether their future children will have or lack certain genetic predispositions. A popular model that has been proposed for regulating access to RGTs is the ‘genetic supermarket’. In the genetic supermarket, parents are free to make decisions about which genes to select for their children with little state interference. One possible consequence of the genetic supermarket is that collective action problems will arise: if rational individuals use the genetic supermarket in isolation from one another, this may have a negative effect on society as a whole, including future generations. In this article we argue that RGTs targeting height, innate immunity, and certain cognitive traits could lead to collective action problems. We then discuss whether this risk could in principle justify state intervention in the genetic supermarket. We argue that there is a plausible prima facie case for the view that such state intervention would be justified and respond to a number of arguments that might be adduced against that view.

Concepts: Organism, Innate immune system, Cognition, Logic, Common law, Argument, Prima facie, 1990s American television series


Data from subjective patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) are now being used in the health sector to make or support decisions about individuals, groups and populations. Contemporary validity theorists define validity not as a statistical property of the test but as the extent to which empirical evidence supports the interpretation of test scores for an intended use. However, validity testing theory and methodology are rarely evident in the PROM validation literature. Application of this theory and methodology would provide structure for comprehensive validation planning to support improved PROM development and sound arguments for the validity of PROM score interpretation and use in each new context.

Concepts: Scientific method, Critical thinking, Psychometrics, Empiricism, Model theory, Logic, Argument, Soundness


Guideline developers can: 1) adopt existing recommendations from others; 2) adapt existing recommendations to their own context; or 3) create recommendations de novo. Monetary and non-monetary resources, credibility, maximization of uptake, as well as logical arguments should guide the choice of the approach and processes.

Concepts: Critical thinking, Avicenna, Logic, Argument, Argumentation theory, Argument map, Soundness, Argument form