Crocodile Dilemma

What is the Crocodile Dilemma?

Imagine a tricky situation that seems to break the rules of logic – that’s what the Crocodile Dilemma is. It’s like a brain teaser that makes you scratch your head because it presents a problem that seems to have no clear solution. This puzzle involves a mother, her child, and a crocodile. It shows us how certain situations can create a loop of outcomes that don’t make sense when put together.

The Crocodile Dilemma is like a riddle with a crocodile that captures a kid. To make it more complex, the crocodile offers a deal to the worried mom: If she can guess what the crocodile is going to do, he will bring her child back unharmed. However, if she guesses that the crocodile will give her child back, should the crocodile keep the child since she was right, or should he return the child as he initially said? This creates a confusing cycle where the answer seems to flip back and forth endlessly.

Two Simple Definitions

A crocodile snatches a boy and tells the boy’s mother that he will only return her son if she can predict what the crocodile plans to do next. If she guesses right, does the crocodile give her son back because she was correct, or does he keep the child because her correct guess confirmed his original statement?

The Crocodile Dilemma is a thought-provoking puzzle where a crocodile’s promise to a mother creates a contradictory situation. Her correct prediction cannot lead to a clear outcome without either breaking the promise or making her prediction false, which is logically impossible.


  • Imagine a computer program that’s designed to shut down if it correctly predicts its own shutdown. If it predicts the shutdown and shuts down, it was correct, but if it doesn’t shut down, it was wrong, creating a paradox similar to the Crocodile Dilemma. This example shows the dilemma in a technology context where prediction and outcome cannot both be accurate.
  • Picture a game show where a contestant is told they will win a car if they guess exactly what the game show host will say about them winning the car. If the host’s words result in the contestant’s correct prediction, then the outcome messes with the original arrangement – like the crocodile’s promise. This example puts the dilemma in the format of a game show but the confusion is the same.

Related Topics

  • The Liar Paradox: This is where someone says “I am lying” – if they are telling the truth, then they are lying, which means they’re not telling the truth. It’s a real head-scratcher that plays with the idea of truth and lies.
  • Zeno’s Paradoxes: These are ancient puzzles that argue, for example, that you can never reach a destination because you must always get halfway there first, endlessly dividing the distance. They challenge our understanding of space and movement.
  • Russell’s Paradox: This one is about a barber who shaves all those, and only those, who do not shave themselves. So, should the barber shave himself or not? It deals with sets of things and whether they can contain themselves.

Why is it Important?

While the Crocodile Dilemma seems far-fetched, it actually touches on real issues about promises and what we can expect in the future. When someone promises something, we assume an outcome based on that promise. But what if the promise is linked to our prediction of the outcome? This dilemma makes us think harder about our assumptions and what we take for granted in everyday situations.

For the average person, it’s about trust and understanding in relationships. If a friend promises to do something based on your guess of their actions, it becomes confusing and teaches us about the complexities of communication. In life, being aware of these paradoxes can prevent misunderstandings and help us become better problem solvers.


The Crocodile Dilemma might not be something we face in real life, but it’s still incredibly valuable. It forces us to break down and analyze situations that involve predictions and promises. This type of thought exercise can help us in many areas of life, from better understanding the contracts we sign to improving computer programs that have to deal with unpredictable requests.

In essence, the Crocodile Dilemma is not just an ancient riddle – it encourages us to sharpen our minds and question the nature of our communications. It reminds us that in the complex world of human (and crocodile) interactions, there’s more than just black and white; there’s a whole spectrum of possibilities that often require a careful and critical approach to navigate successfully.