ARG-174

The following appeared as part of an article in a business magazine.

"A recent study rating 300 male and female Mentian advertising executives according to the average number of hours they sleep per night showed an association between the amount of sleep the executives need and the success of their firms. Of the advertising firms studied, those whose executives reported needing no more than 6 hours of sleep per night had higher profit margins and faster growth. These results suggest that if a business wants to prosper, it should hire only people who need less than 6 hours of sleep per night."


Write a response in which you examine the stated and/or unstated assumptions of the argument. Be sure to explain how the argument depends on these assumptions and what the implications are for the argument if the assumptions prove unwarranted.


In the article, the author describes a study concerning the average number of sleeping hours of 300 advertising executives and the success of their firms. The study shows a connection between sleep required (6 hours per night), and higher profit margins and faster growth. The author concludes that this link is a causal relationship and further suggests that business should exclusively hire people who need less than 6 hours of sleep per night. Astonishingly stimulating as this recommendation may sound, it suffers from several questionable assumptions, which, if not justified, would negatively influence the soundness of this argument.

First, when discussing the connection between the executives’ sleeping hours and the financial performance of their firms, the author apparently assumes that these executives should receive most, if not all, the credit for the higher profits margins and faster growth. However, common sense informs us that any company’s excellent performance derives from combined efforts of every single unit within that company. Although those in high positions, such as executives, may exert great influence over the company, dismissing other employee’s contributions would be both unfair and unreasonable. Therefore, while I admit that the advertising executives might play an essential role in their firm’s operation, once the participation of others also proves significant to the development of the firms, the assumption would be undermined that we should ascribe the healthy performance of these firms to their advertising executives, and the conclusion of this argument is also rendered in jeopardy.

Even if the advertising executives should be honored for their contributions to their firms’ excellent financial performance, the validity of this argument may also be impaired by another dubious assumption, the one which attributes these executives’ capabilities to the amount of sleep they require, namely, 6 hours per night. While we acknowledge the correlation between the length of sleep staff require and their work performance, we cannot easily see how 6 hours is applicable to everyone to perform their best at work. Therefore, we cannot rule out the possibility that arduous work tasks actually exhaust these executives that they cannot sleep longer than 6 hours; that is to say, even better performance may result if they sleep longer. If this is the case, then the previous assumption is unwarranted and we should thus vote against the author’s proposal to only hire those who need less than 6 hours of sleep per night.

Even if we concede that the handsome financial performance of these films results from their executives’ outstanding capacity and that this capacity is attributable to their 6-hour sleep per night, whether the author’s suggestion is advisable highly depends on the soundness of the assumption that the executives’ performance and that of their firms can be generalized to other staff as well as to business world. However, the executives’ circumstances cannot be easily applied to staff who occupy different roles; likewise, it would be irrational to draw hasty generalizations based on one firm. If a business claims that a longer period of sleep is needed for both their workers’ development as well as its prosperity, then the aforementioned assumption is defeated and the author’s suggestion thus becomes absurd.

To draw a conclusion, while improved financial performance is always desirable, without any support, it is illogical to assume that the performance only springs from a limited amount of staffs’ sleep. Also, we cannot expect the executives to bring their firms high profits on their own. Consequently, while the author’s suggestion appears appealing, the questionable assumptions discussed above may deprive it of its feasibility.

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