« on: April 20, 2008, 09:51:35 PM »
Just some ramblings to keep the procrastination binge going a bit longer... Warning: incoherent!
Let me start with a metaphor from computers. This whole thing will make a lot more sense if you are a computer nerd, but its the only good metaphor I can think of right now.
Ever notice how computers can play a DVD in cinematic quality, but video games look much less realistic? This is because DVD's have been pre-rendered in non-real time by some very powerful computers at the film studio. Since the film is already been rendered, all your computer needs to do when you pop in the DVD is display a series of images, not actually process them. In a video game, since it must respond to your input, the quality must be low enough that your computer (or video game console) has enough computing power to render the images on the fly.
The ability of a computer to render an image can be measured by a benchmark. Benchmarks are a pretty good way of figuring out how fast a computer is at performing a certain task. There are a few problems with accurate measurement, however. First, benchmarks only test a highly specific type of processing. A computer that can display 100 frames per second in video game A, may only be able to display 70 frames per second in a similarly complex video game B due to the specific vagarities of how the hardware and software interacts. Another computer might be able to do 100 frames per second in video game B, but only 70 in video Game B. And yet, the 3d benchmarking program could return the same "Score" for both. Even though the task is for both is playing video games, there are huge disparities. This can get even more complex is you are comparing how one computer does a completely different task, like decoding audio. Bottom line, all a benchmark tells you for sure is how well the computer scores on the benchmark. What is really importaint is how the computer performs in the actual tasks you use it for.
The LSAT is a benchmark which attempts to approximate the type of reasoning that is commonly done in law school. The problem is, like a bench mark, it assumes no "pre-rendering". However, you can study for the LSAT, which by familiarization, allows you to memorize certain inferences you may have not been capable of making in real time.
Some people attempt to go through law school without pre rendering any of the material. These are the people who try to just learn from the case book. The thing is, you can get the law pre-rendered for you from sources such as hornbooks, past outlines, etc. This pre rendered law may-or may not be exactly what is being looked for by the professor. If all you have is the "pre rendered" law from the hornbook, your analysis ends up looking like the video game Myst (which is basically a slide show of pre rendered images stitched together to create the appearance of a live environment). Your analysis won't be fluid and you won't actually be processing much, but your answers will generally look just like the ones being asked for. The pre-rendered crowd, however, might have a hard time if the exam questions don't look like what they have pre rendered (but this is rare because you generally know exactly what is going to be on the exam).
In reality, nobody pre-renders everything, and everyone has a different methods of doing it, which have varying levels of effectiveness come exam time.
Another problem: like I said, the LSAT is just a benchmark. It is kind of like what you are doing in law school but not exactly. It can be gamed, pre-rendered, and often misses certain abilities and weaknesses. It only tests an extremely specific type of reasoning. But, the types of reasoning it tests is often just like what you will be faced with in learning the law.
Reading comprehension: Like reading caselaw. This is very succeptible to pre-rendering with hornbooks.
Logical Reasoning: Similar to IRACing on exams. Can be pre-rendered by studying past exams.
Logic Games. Like sorting through large, interlocking doctrines. For those who have had civpro, the supplemental jurisdiction rules + joinder rules= one big massive logic game. Can be pre-rendered by extra studying, and memorizing the "solution" to the game.
Which gets me to the relationship between LSAT and law school performance.
People who outperform their LSAT score likely fall into two groups:
#1.Those who are very effective at pre-rendering (knowing how and when to pre-render is not tested on the LSAT). Some of these people might not do well even if the benchmark were changed.
#2. Those whose thought process worked in such a way that the benchmark was a poor measurement of processing power. If a different benchmark were used they might do very well.
Let me conclude that by saying that just as a benchmark is not a comprehensive measure of processing power, the LSAT is not a comprehensive measure of brain power. It is only an "intelligence" test if you define intelligence to mean ability to do the specific type of reasoning measured in the benchmark. All that does not mean that some people are not packing Core 2 Duo processors and others are not packing 8086 processors.