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When playing a game of pool or snooker it is easy to see how the movement of one ball ’causes’ the ball that it hits to move into the table pocket. The field of physics attempts to understand the universe in terms of cause and effect — a task that can be very difficult at times. Sometimes the assumed cause isn’t correct, other times the assumed cause is just one of many factors.

Cause for confusion

A common problem occurs when a person believes that another person’s action has caused their emotional state. For example, if someone says “John made me angry” they are stating that another person has direct control over their emotional state. The same behavior wouldn’t necessarily make a different person angry or even anger the same person on a different day.

Other people can influence our emotions but to believe they have control over them is a very limiting belief. Furthermore, to think that we control another person’s emotions, or they control ours, is a big responsibility not to mention an impossible task.

Recognizing cause and effect

One way to recognize when a cause and effect relationship is being made is to look for the word ‘but’. For example the statement “We would have won the game but John dropped the ball” implies that the game was lost because John dropped the ball. While the fact that John dropped the ball may have contributed to the loss of the game it is likely not the sole causing factor.

Clarifying cause and effect

You can use the following approaches to clarify a cause and effect statement:

  1. Ask how one thing causes the other. This will often make new choices appear but won’t necessarily cause a re-evaluation of the cause-effect belief. Alternatively, you could ask what would have to happen so that one thing does not cause the other.
  2. Ask for a description of the exact process that links the cause to the effect — “How exactly does this effect occur as a result of that cause?” Quite often when attempting to sort out the details it will become clear that there is no direct link between the cause and the effect. Also, looking for other contributing factors can help provide more insight.
  3. Look for a situation where the same cause does not have the same effect.


Cause and effect describes a relationship between two events in a way that one event ’causes’ the other.

A cause and effect relationship can be misleading (an event may have many factors that caused it) or it can be incorrect.

A cause and effect statement can often be recognized by the word ‘but’.

To clarify a cause effect statement ask how one thing causes the other, try and find other factors that contributed to the cause, or find other situations where the same cause didn’t have the same effect.

Related Pages

Unspecified Nouns
Unspecified Verbs
Modal Operators of Possibility
Modal Operators of Necessity
Universal Quantifiers
Complex Equivalence
Cause and Effect
Mind Reading