I just ran into a situation in one of my puzzle games that baffled me. In it, I was in a room where lightning bolts were being thrown across the room. On a platform in front of the shooters was a giant spider moving back and forth. I decided that the spider was there to block the lightning bolts so you could more easily search the room (dodging the lightning bolts was rather hard). Doing this, I was able to find a button. I pressed this button, but nothing seemed to happen. After searching around, I concluded that it just temporarily stopped the lightning bolts. However, that quickly proved false. Then I noticed that on the spider's platform was a bunch of buttons, so I thought that maybe I needed to throw objects onto those buttons. Doing that, it did nothing. After this, and dying excessively to the stupid bolts, I decided to look up what that button I found actually did. I didn't find it, but I found out I was completely mistaken on how that roomed worked. Turns out, those floor buttons actually activated the lightning bolt shooters (I thought they just randomly shot, which I had encountered before). That spider was actually making them shoot by stepping on said buttons. What I was supposed to do is kill the spider so I could explore the room in peace.

I've now uninstalled the game, because I looked up a spoiler. I won't play it again for years. Now, I wish to avoid situations like this.

Is there anyway I could've avoided making such a mistake like this? I completely misinterpreted how everything in that room was causally linked. Thinking about it, this reminds me an old joke I once heard. One man trained a flea to jump when he blew a whistle. One by one, he removed the flea's legs. After all its legs were gone, it of course didn't jump anymore. The scientist then concluded: fleas must hear with their legs! Yeah. I've heard scientists do struggle with stuff like this all the time, but of course, they're probably not the best to ask given their hatred of epistemology.

So, is there anyway you can avoid mistaking the chain of causation of any sequence of events? In the case of that room with the lightning bolts and spider, could I have possibly avoided coming to the wrong conclusion like I did? I did also notice that the shooters wouldn't fire their lightning bolts wouldn't fire if the spider was in front of the it, but I thought that was a gameplay feature to keep the spider from dying (I did think it was put there to give the player a bit of a shield). I just got horribly confused over what purpose everything served. Is there anyway I could've avoided this? Maybe I would've realized I was horribly wrong if I was more patient and didn't run off to find a spoiler. Of course, I was quite fustrated by that level (it had a lot of cheap stuff in that made it basically up to rng whether or not you progressed, yeah, rng in a puzzle game, wtf?)

  • I'm not here to answer your question, but just to commiserate with you. I've been struggling with a puzzle game lately, the hints were a bit too opaque for me to work my way around, and I'm a bit annoyed with myself after having just googled the answer because I'm tired of being frustrated by the game haha.
    – TKoL
    Jan 16 at 15:22
  • no, we (living) human beings cannot avoid mistakes like this (by/when being not all-knowing). Of course error rate increases, when we are additionally greedy and/or unlogic (+ pretend "all knowing").
    – xerx593
    Jan 16 at 15:25
  • In general: formulate an hypotheses and check/test it with some sort of experiment. Jan 16 at 15:28
  • Well, I did technically do that. I pressed the wall button thinking it stopped the lightning bolts, but eventually it did not, which refuted that. I thought I was supposed to weigh down the buttons on the spider's platform, but that also did nothing. What could I have done though to avoid coming to the erroneous conclusion that the developers put that spider there was a shield? It was technically shielding me and consistently so. Maybe I should've just been more patient, then I may have thought I was supposed to kill the spider? Too late now of course.
    – user44643
    Jan 16 at 15:45
  • Games straight-up lie to you about what causes what, so they might not be a great example. For example, figuring out whether a spider is pushing buttons requires tracking the physics of all the spider's legs, but figuring out whether a spider is alive is just checking a single Boolean value, so depend on the sophistication of the game, what caused the lightning bolts might have been a single variable about the spider's state, and the buttons were just a lie to give you a plausible reason for why a real spider's state could have as much of an impact on lightning bolts as in a game.
    – g s
    Jan 16 at 16:50

1 Answer 1


Yes, there are various ways to do that depending on the theory of causality you choose. The necessary connection you establish can be always revised later based on evidence, however. Here's a SEP article on various theories. It usually relies on some sort of probabilistic (or, at least, non-discrete) reasoning.

  • I appreciate your post, but thinking about it, I'm starting to think I was mistaken about what went wrong. I was thinking that I was mistakenly went down the wrong path. However, in hindsight, maybe I could've deduced what was happening based on the evidence I had. I already learned that monsters can set off floor buttons, but for some reason that didn't cross my mind here. Maybe if I went for broke and killed the spider out of desperation, I would've realized what was actually happening. I didn't commit a logical fallacy, I simply gave up too early, and didn't realize what was obvious.
    – user44643
    Jan 16 at 21:59