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The following appeared as part of a letter to the editor of a scientific journal.

"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.

Citing a study from an unidentified source, the author concludes about the effect of birth order on the
stimulation level of rhesus monkeys and further pledges its relevance to human rather on a contradictory
ground. However, certain assumptions, statistical evidence and analogy remain questionable.
To begin with, the argument does not mention anything about the method of the scientific survey that was
carried out to obtain the evidence. And again, out of billions of rhesus monkeys that might be thriving in
the wild, only 18 of them is really too few a count to represent the whole population.
It is mentioned in the argument that firstborn releases twice as much of cortisol as their younger
offspring; if the firstborn has more than one offspring, does the ratio of stimulus secretion still remains
2:1 or changes are not mentioned or indicated. Again, there is no way of becoming sure whether cortisol
is the only chemical resulting in stimulating behavior or there might be other chemical or non-chemical
activity that could have caused an increased level of activity.
Analogy between human and monkey is quite a weak one based only on a hormonal secretion. Even if it
holds, situations under which cortisol release occurs in the rhesus monkey and human firstborn are totally

opposite in nature of the subject of interaction. While in case of rhesus monkey stimulation is induced by
the presence of an unknown individual, the same effect takes place for human in the presence of parents
who do not certainly become unfamiliar in any duration of absence.
The introduction of the example of rhesus monkeys involving pregnant female species is not coherent and
remains unclear about the purpose of its mentioning. How could a firstborn offspring be analogous to a
female undergoing first instance of pregnancy is not clear.

In sum the argument relies on unverified assumption of certain chemical activity of the cortisol hormone,
data that is not representative and analogies between subject that are not quite analogous.