Thursday, April 11, 2013

Mastermind by Maria Konnikova


Have you ever wanted to think like Sherlock Holmes? Holmes had a method of mindful interaction with the world. Yet for him, mindful presence was just the first step.

Maria uses examples from Holmes for “an education in improving our faculty of mindful thought and in using it in order to accomplish more, think better, and decide more optimally.” (4) The mindset of Holmes' rigorous approach to thoughts can serve as a model for thinking and a way of being.
Maria covers the initial knowledge base and observation (what we need to overcome, how to observe, what we must observe).
I learned that wandering is our mind's resting state, about selective looking, observation without preformed theories, engagement, being open-minded, egocentric bias, deductive reasoning, relevance of past experience, importance of continued education, and the blindness of over confidence.

She ends, “If you get only one thing out of this book, it should be this: the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present, reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state.” (257)

Rather than being a dull book about thinking and research, Maria uses examples from Holmes and Watson as jumping off points to explain brain function, discoveries, and experiments. If you have not read of Holmes' adventures you may not appreciate the fictional examples she uses. For Holmes fans, this book is a delight.
It was interesting to learn that Doyle himself solved a couple of wrongful convictions, putting into practice the techniques he wrote about. I was also made aware of how we can be fooled, however, as Doyle was by the photos of fairies in the 1920s.

What a fun book to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I trust I have learned how to think more like Sherlock Holmes.

Maria Konnikova writes a column for Scientific American and her writing has appeared in several publications. She is a graduate of Harvard University and is currently a doctoral candidate in psychology at Columbia University. She lives in New York City. Follow her blog at http://www.mariakonnikova.com/ .

Viking, 275 pages.
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