Essay topics: A recent study of eighteen rhesus monkeys provides clues as to the effects of birth order on an individual's levels of stimulation. The study showed that in stimulating situations (such as an encounter with an unfamiliar monkey), firstborn infant monkeys produce up to twice as much of the hormone cortisol, which primes the body for increased activity levels, as do their younger siblings. Firstborn humans also produce relatively high levels of cortisol in stimulating situations (such as the return of a parent after an absence). The study also found that during pregnancy, first-time mother monkeys had higher levels of cortisol than did those who had had several offspring.
Write a response in which you discuss one or more alternative explanations that could rival the proposed explanation and explain how your explanation(s) can plausibly account for the facts presented in the argument.
A study that tried to establish a relationship between hormonal levels of first new born monkeys and human babies showed that there is an increased level of the hormone Cortisol when these subjects faced unfamiliar or stimulating situations. This argument provides with some conclusions based on some study findings but lacks proper correlation between them. What has been studied and concluded for monkeys’ does not indicate that humans must possess the same characteristics.
The argument posits that a study of eighteen monkeys has found an increased level of Cortisol. But concluding that based on a sample size of eighteen is not justified. A sample size is generally a large number, with possibly variegated characteristics among the sample for accurate results. This argument does not give a clear picture as to what constituted the eighteen samples and factors that have been considered in selecting the sample.
Considering monkeys as the subjects, it is not clearly mentioned as to what constitutes a “stimulating situation”. It may not be true that all the monkeys display similar results for different stimulating situations. Secondly it isn’t mentioned how many of the eighteen monkeys are parents, first born and how many belong to other orders. It is possible that the increase in cortisol level among the monkeys can be accounted for some other factors as well such as environment conditions, their age, etc.
Human infants, on the other hand, when faced with unfamiliar situation, exhibit higher levels of cortisol level. Though the hormone Cortisol is present in both the monkeys and humans, the stimulus in both the cases can be different. It is not mentioned in the argument that Humans and monkeys possess similar hormonal reactions to the stimulus. Likewise, the stimulus considered in the argument is different for both the cases. It could be helpful in this case if the number of infants studied is given. For example, we cannot generalize the conclusion if only a very few babies, say twenty - were studied for the hormonal changes, for the entire population. Also the fact that first time pregnant monkey mothers had higher levels of cortisol does not clearly indicate a relationship with that of the offspring’s cortisol levels. This may be possible but based on the given information, but it does not mean that the same is true in case of humans.
Hence, for the given information, there can be many reasons for the findings. These results can be varying in many different circumstances and an extensive study needs to be done to conclusively establish the above mentioned results with respect to birth order of offspring.
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