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This is a verbal reasoning question in a GRE book. Obviously, the correct answer could only be A or B. And the explanation on the text book is "the correct answer is B".

Unenlightened authoritarian managers rarely recognize a crucial reason for the low levels of serious conflict among members of democratically run work groups: a modicum of tolerance for dissent often prevents __.

A. demur B. schism C. cooperation D. compliance E. shortsightedness

I know that schism does impose a stronger feeling, but I do not understand why I cannot choose A.

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Why do you think demur would work in this context? Without that information, this borders on being Not A Real Question. –  waiwai933 Oct 9 '11 at 2:31
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Probably because the test writers assumed that demur could only be a verb. –  nohat Oct 9 '11 at 2:33

3 Answers 3

up vote 10 down vote accepted

Demur as a noun is relatively uncommon, and I at least would consider it dated, if not archaic. It means a pause, hesitation, but even that couldn't suit the context. Just my opinion, but I think the noun sense is rarely used except in the context of negation (accept without demur, there shall be no demur, etc.)

Demur is normally used as a verb today, meaning to hesitate, object, prevaricate. It's definitely not some "weaker" version of schism a split between strongly opposed parties, caused by differences in opinion.

In short, schism really is the only plausible candidate, regardless of whether the test writer forgot that demur can be used as a noun.

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You've never done something without demur? –  TimLymington Oct 9 '11 at 14:41
    
@TimLymington: To be honest, I don't think I have. I'd understand if someone else did, though I don't think I'd use it as a noun myself. But you're quite right - I'll tone down my assertion in the answer. –  FumbleFingers Oct 9 '11 at 14:58

In this particular context, 'demur' would probably mean something very like 'dissent', so it would be foolish at best, and contradictory at worst.

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I think the question that the OP was responding to is silly. The fact is that all of the answers could be right:

...a modicum of tolerance for dissent often prevents demur.

Using the noun form "hesitation" -- if the non compliant are tolerated then they may be less prone to hesitating because they know their different views will continue be taken into consideration.

...a modicum of tolerance for dissent often prevents schism.

Which is certainly the most obvious answer.

...a modicum of tolerance for dissent often prevents cooperation.

This is the opposite side -- sometimes if the managers tolerate dissent then the dissenters think they have more power than they actually have, and are less prone to cooperation. Sometimes a manager has to put his foot down to move things forward.

...a modicum of tolerance for dissent often prevents compliance.

Really the same as above.

...a modicum of tolerance for dissent often prevents shortsightedness.

By tolerating dissent it is often the case that a really valid and useful point is kept alive in that dissent. Sometimes in our rush to get the job done we forget the long view, and if we squash all dissent, and demand that all move forward with the manager's vision, we can loose a very valuable point from one of the dissenters about the long view.

So I think all answers are correct.

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This may be the very reason the question-setter included the first half of the sentence: C D and E would be complete non sequiturs. –  TimLymington Oct 9 '11 at 14:46
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Although at the end of the sentence many words will work, one choice makes the best semantic sense with the context of the sentence as a whole. The way these questions are written is usually to say "pick the best answer", not an answer you might be able to make a case for :) –  aedia λ Oct 9 '11 at 15:08

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