Think like Sherlock Holmes

“What Sherlock Holmes offers isn’t just a way of solving a crime. It is an entire way of thinking."

"Holmes provides... an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought and in using it in order to accomplish more, think better, and decide more optimally." - Ellen Langer

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Self Improvement

As children, we are remarkably aware to the world around us. This attention wanes over time as we allow more pressing responsibilities to attend to and demands on our minds to address. And as the demands on our attention increase so, too, does our actual attention decrease.

 As it does so, we become less and less able to know or notice our own thought habits and more and more allow our minds to dictate our judgments and decisions, instead of the other way around.

Daniel Kahneman believes there are two systems for organizing and filtering knowledge: 

  • System one is real-time. This system makes judgments and decisions before our mental apparatus can consciously catch up. 
  • System two, on the other hand, is a slow process of thinking based on critical examination of evidence. Konnikova refers to these as System Watson and System Holmes.

To move from a System Watson- to a System Holmes-governed thinking takes mindfulness plus motivation.

As Holmes tells Watson, “I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose.”

Attics have two components: structure and contents. Your memory attic should not be jumbled and mindless so that knowledge gets lost.

"To cultivate our knowledge actively, we need to realize that items are being pushed into our attic space at every opportunity. "
 When we’re in our default System Watson mode, we don’t “choose” which memories to store. They just kind of store themselves—or they don’t, as the case may be.

Before we include something in our brain attic we must first observe it.

It’s not just about the passive process of letting objects enter into your visual field. It is about knowing what and how to observe and directing your attention accordingly: what details do you focus on? What details do you omit? 

It’s about understanding how to contextualize those details within a broader framework of thought.

Attention is a limited resource. Paying attention to one thing necessarily comes at the expense of another.

We cannot allocate our attention to multiple things at once and expect it to function at the same level as it would were we to focus on just one activity.

Habit and motivation. Become an expert of sorts at those types of decisions or observation that you want to excel at making.

To think we also need distance.

Forcing your mind to take a step back is a tough thing to do. It seems counterintuitive to walk away from a problem that you want to solve.

Not only does distance facilitate imaginative thinking but it also helps counter short-term emotions.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES

When we focus on one particular element in a situation or problem, our brains can cause all the other elements to ‘disappear', so that we will have no conscious experience of having ever been exposed to them.

Inattentional blindness illustrates the limitations of our attentional abilities. We can’t ever multitask the way we think we can. Something will get lost. 

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IDEAS

Notice important details. 

“Holmes is an expert at person perception,” says Konnikova. Holmes is also an expert at identifying his own biases–i.e. the memories in his brain attic that might influence his perception of a person or situation.

Being Vulnerable Is Being Smart

By being authentic, Clarice disarmed Dr. Hannibal Lecter’s intellectual superiority. Instead of trying to compete with him, her vulnerability made Hannibal more cooperative.

Being vulnerable reflects the best on you and others. You don’t need to outsmart others to find a great solution. Vulnerability is not a weakness, but a superpower — what we reflect comes back to us.

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