Which of the following statements is the best paraphrase of the highlighted sentence?

On a more optimistic note however, humans are fully capable of overcoming limitations once we have identified them.

The options are:

  1. Hopefully, humans will soon be able to solve these problems.
  2. Fortunately, humans can solve problems that we know about.
  3. Luckily, humans do not have many limitations which have been identified.
  4. We are happy to note that we can solve the problem which we have identified.

I answered 4, but the system says 2.

why is 4 wrong, please?

If you want the whole text, here you go:

Risk-Taking and the Monkey Economy

Humans are uniquely smart among all the other species on the planet. We are capable of outstanding feats of technology and engineering. Then why are we so prone to making mistakes? And why do we tend to make the same ones time and time again? When Primate Psychologist Laurie Santos from the Comparative Cognition Lab at Yale University posed this question to her team, they were thinking in particular of the errors of judgement which led to the recent collapse of the financial markets. Santos came to two possible answers to this question. Either humans have designed environments which are too complex for us to fully understand, or we are biologically prone to making bad decisions.

In order to test these theories, the team selected a group of Brown Capuchin monkeys. Monkeys were selected for the test because, as distant relatives of humans, they are intelligent and have the capacity to learn. However, they are not influenced by any of the technological or cultural environments which affect human decision-making. The team wanted to test whether the capuchin monkeys, when put into similar situations as humans, would make the same mistakes.

Of particular interest to the scientists was whether monkeys would make the same mistakes when making financial decisions. In order to find out, they had to introduce the monkeys to money. The team distributed metal discs to the monkeys, and taught them that the discs could be exchanged with team-members for food. The monkeys soon cottoned on, and as well as learning simple exchange techniques, were soon able to distinguish 'bargains' – If one team-member offered two grapes in exchange for a metal disc and another team-member offered one grape, the monkeys chose the two-grape option. Interestingly, when the data about the monkey's purchasing strategies was compared with economist's data on human behaviour, there was a perfect match.

So, after establishing that the monkey market was operating effectively, the team decided to introduce some problems which humans generally get wrong. One of these issues is risk-taking. Imagine that someone gave you $1000. In addition to this $1000, you can receive either A) an additional $500 or B) someone tosses a coin and if it lands 'heads' you receive an additional $1000, but if it lands 'tails' you receive no more money. Of these options, most people tend to choose option A. They prefer guaranteed earnings, rather than running the risk of receiving nothing. Now imagine a second situation in which you are given $2000. Now, you can choose to either A) lose $500, leaving you with a total of $1500, or B) toss a coin; if it lands 'heads' you lose nothing, but if it lands 'tails' you lose $1000, leaving you with only $1000. Interestingly, when we stand to lose money, we tend to choose the more risky choice, option B. And as we know from the experience of financial investors and gamblers, it is unwise to take risks when we are on a losing streak.

So would the monkeys make the same basic error of judgement? The team put them to the test by giving them similar options. In the first test, monkeys had the option of exchanging their disc for one grape and receiving one bonus grape, or exchanging the grape for one grape and sometimes receiving two bonus grapes and sometimes receiving no bonus. It turned out that monkeys, like humans, chose the less risky option in times of plenty. Then the experiment was reversed. Monkeys were offered three grapes, but in option A were only actually given two grapes. In option B, they had a fifty-fifty chance of receiving all three grapes or one grape only. The results were that monkeys, like humans, take more risks in times of loss.

The implications of this experiment are that because monkeys make the same irrational judgements that humans do, maybe human error is not a result of the complexity of our financial institutions, but is imbedded in our evolutionary history. If this is the case, our errors of judgement will be very difficult to overcome. On a more optimistic note however, humans are fully capable of overcoming limitations once we have identified them. By recognising them, we can design technologies which will help us to make better choices in future.

  • limitations -> problems
    – TsSkTo
    Dec 17, 2015 at 15:33
  • @TsSkTo actually the problems work appears in both options 2, 4 Dec 17, 2015 at 15:34
  • 2
    Limitations is plural. So problems should be plural. Answer 4 is singular. problems vs problem
    – TsSkTo
    Dec 17, 2015 at 15:36
  • 3
    Actually, TsSkTo is right. If it said a problem which we have identified that might have been passible, but with the in that sentence it can't readily be understood in the same way. Secondly that is a dummy answer to check if you're being confused by the word note in the Question.. Dec 17, 2015 at 15:48
  • 1
    I agree with @TsSkTo - the sense of the original is about problems in general, not a specific unnamed problem. Option 2 captures this sense better than option 4.
    – Lawrence
    Dec 17, 2015 at 15:48

2 Answers 2


Since I guessed the right answer when I read the four rewrites of the original sentence, I thought it might be helpful to share my quick analysis of each of the four rewrite options with you.

Rewrite #1 frames the human capacity to correct problems in terms of the likelihood of quickly solving a particular problem once its nature is understood. But the original doesn't speak of likelihoods; it speaks unequivocally of a capability. And it doesn't at all address the question of how quickly a solution is likely to be forthcoming.

Rewrite #2 essentially restates the original statement. The only aspect of this rewrite that seems a bit off is the use of "Hopefully" to introduce the discussion of the human capability to solve identified problems; the original version uses the phrase "On a more optimistic note," which is essentially a heavily padded transition to move from one sentence to another. It's true that "Hopefully" expresses a desire for a good outcome, but it seems to me that "optimistic" expresses something closer to an expectation than to a mere hope. Still, being hopeful and being optimistic are fairly closely related ideas.

Rewrite #3 is obviously a bad choice because it celebrates the idea that people have few identified problems, whereas the original wording indicates that identified problems are the ones that people can overcome.

Rewrite #4 focuses on a specific problem and announces that "we" can solve it. But the original wording is more general and makes a somewhat different claim: that people can solve problems once they have identified them (with sufficient accuracy and clarity, presumably). Although it may seem reasonable to infer that once the particular problem that the monkey economy experiment investigated is understood adequately, people will be able to solve it, it doesn't follow that (1) people have reached the necessary level of understanding of the problem yet, and (2) people can solve the problem now (or in other words, a solution to the problem already exists).

Under the circumstances, rewrite #2 is the most accurate restatement of the original sentence. And in the cramped, airless environment where tests like this one exist, "most accurate" is treated as being equivalent to "correct."


Option 2 seems to be the correct answer because it mentions "problems" as compared to option 4 which mentions "the problem". Since this paragraph does not speak about only a single problem which human beings face, the answer should have the plural form i.e. "problems".

  • You conveniently avoided option 1 which also uses the plural term, problems. Why is No.1 "wrong"?
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:22
  • If you reply that the OP only wanted to know why No.2 is correct, then that too was fully addressed in Sven's answer. And also posted in comments.
    – Mari-Lou A
    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:25

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