Style vs. Substance in Decision Making (A GMAT Practice Essay)

Yin yang laozi

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In my recent studies for the GMAT, I saved this practice essay and thought I would share it here.  The goal is to analyze the below issue and come out on one side or the other.

“Whether people accept or reject an idea depends more on the way it is presented to them than on the merits of the idea itself.”


There is some merit to this idea, and had it been presented better, I might have had more favorable things to say about the concept.

Perhaps if the author had included some proof, the concept would be merited, and therefore be more acceptable.  But without any facts whatsoever, individuals are not provided with the tools to judge this idea, to determine whether or not the idea is acceptable.  In fact, most people do require at least some logical justification and understanding of the merits of an idea before making their decision.  Is the Earth flat or is it round?  Unless the reader has already formed an opinion (which is kind of out of scope for this discussion), they will most certainly base at least SOME of their decision on the actual merits of the case.  If the reader already has formed an opinion, as in the case of whether the Earth is flat or round, both the facts AND the presentation might have to be VERY strong to convince people of the new idea.

Of course presentation is important too, and in some cases may even be the majority of the deciding factor.  If the two ideas are so similar, for example, as Coke and Pepsi.  Basically, what one is buying is image, presentation.  But even that may be largely based on the fact that the merits for either side (flavor, etc.) are almost identical.  Another time presentation may form a majority of the decision is in purely unimportant, or unprovable decisions.  Whether or not to accept the idea of UFOs, for example, cannot yet be proven either way, and how each side presents the merits is a huge factor.

In the end, a lot does depend on what idea must be accepted.  But there is a whole spectrum between black (decision-making purely on the basis of merits alone) and white (decision-making purely on the basis of presentation).  The two blend into infinite shades of gray, a balance between fact and image,  Yin and Yang, presentation and merit.  Actual color is formed by the addition of other factors – trust, morality, personal history and experience are just a few of the hues added to help (and hinder) each individual when forming his or her own opinion about an issue, however large or small.


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