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What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Decision Making
– Maria Konnikova

“the most powerful mind is the quiet mind. It is the mind that is present, reflective, mindful of its thoughts and its state. It doesn’t often multitask, and when it does, it does so with a purpose.”

Maria was born in Moscow, Russia and came to the United States when she was four years old. Her first ever book was written in Russian. It was five pages long and had something to do with trolls. When Maria was in fourth grade, she wrote a play. It took what felt like years to complete and all of fifteen minutes to perform. The audience (of proud parents and siblings) raved.

Maria cried

when she realized that the sounds she kept hearing were not tears but suppressed—and then not so suppressed—laughter at the dead king who couldn’t stop wriggling as he lay on top of the two chairs that were supposed to symbolize his tomb.

You know how the story ends. The chairs slid apart. The deceased monarch crashed to the floor. The room erupted. It was not how Maria had envisioned her first theatrical production.

Maria is a contributing writer  for The New Yorker online, where she writes a weekly column  with a focus on psychology and science, and is currently working on an assortment of non-fiction and fiction projects.

Her first book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes  (Viking/Penguin, 2013), was a New York Times bestseller and has been translated into seventeen languages.

Her second book, on the psychology of the con, is scheduled for publication by Viking/Penguin next winter. Her writing has appeared online and in print in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, The New Republic, The Paris Review, The Wall Street Journal, Salon, The Boston Globe, The Observer, Scientific American MIND, WIRED, and Scientific American, among numerous other publications.

Maria blogs regularly for The New Yorker and formerly wrote the “Literally Psyched ” column for Scientific American and the popular psychology blog “Artful Choice ” for Big Think

She graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University, where she studied psychology, creative writing, and government, and received her Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University. She previously worked as a producer for the Charlie Rose show on PBS. She still, on occasion, writes in Russian. She no longer writes plays. [From: Mariakonnikova.com]

“Imagination is all about new possibilities, eventualities that don’t exist, counterfactuals, a recombination of elements in new ways. It is about the untested. And the untested is uncertain. It is frightening—even” 


  • How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

No fictional character is more renowned for his powers of thought and observation than Sherlock Holmes. But is his extraordinary intellect merely a gift of fiction, or can we learn to cultivate these abilities ourselves, to improve our lives at work and at home?

We can, says psychologist and journalist Maria Konnikova, and in Mastermind she shows us how. Beginning with the “brain attic”—

Holmes’s metaphor for how we store information and organize knowledge—Konnikova unpacks the mental strategies that lead to clearer thinking and deeper insights.

Drawing on twenty-first-century neuroscience and psychology, Mastermind explores Holmes’s unique methods of ever-present mindfulness, astute observation, and logical deduction.

In doing so, it shows how each of us, with some self-awareness and a little practice, can employ these same methods to sharpen our perceptions, solve difficult problems, and enhance our creative powers.

For Holmes aficionados and casual readers alike, Konnikova reveals how the world’s most keen-eyed detective can serve as an unparalleled guide to upgrading the mind.
[From: Barnesandnoble.com]

Readers who esteem Sherlock Holmes as superhuman will be pleasantly surprised by Konnikova’s first book, wherein the Scientific American columnist makes good on her premise that the average person can indeed train his or her mind to emulate the thinking style of the iconic fictional sleuth.

Partial proof comes, in fact, from his creator, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who in a number of cases used Holmesian deduction to rectify real miscarriages of justice.

Starting with Holmes’s concept of the “brain attic,” where care is taken to maximize the use of limited space, Konnikova uses illustrative examples from the original stories to make her points, along the way correcting several misconceptions, pointing out where Holmes went astray, and highlighting his reliance on curiosity and the imagination.

She stresses that training one’s brain requires “mindfulness and motivation,” and elucidates the negative effects of continuous partial attention, a hallmark of today’s wired world. (But Konnikova is no Luddite; she observes that while relying on Google can affect one’s ability to remember specific facts, it enhances the ability to know where to find them.)

Not for Baker Street Irregulars alone, this fascinating look at how the mind works—replete with real-life case studies and engaging thought experiments—will be an eye-opening education for many. [A Review from Publishersweekly.com]

A psychologist’s guide to mindful thinking in the vein of Sherlock Holmes. “You see, but you do not observe,” says Holmes to Dr. Watson in Arthur Conan Doyle’s story “A Scandal in Bohemia.”

Once again, the ever-sharp fictional detective explains his habits of thought–constant mindfulness, close observation and logical deduction–to his friend and assistant.

Drawing on a lifetime immersion in the Holmes tales and the latest findings of neuroscience and psychology, Konnikova, the “Literally Psyched” columnist for Scientific American, debuts with a bright and entertaining how-to aimed at helping readers engage in the awareness described by psychologists from William James to Ellen Langer. Holmes offers “an entire way of thinking,” and not just for solving crimes.

With practice, writes Konnikova, Holmes’ methodology can be learned and cultivated. Describing the workings of the “brain attic,” where the thought process occurs, the author explains: “As our thought process begins, the furniture of memory combines with the structure of internal habits and external circumstances to determine which item will be retrieved from storage at any given point.”

With clear delight, Konnikova offers examples of Holmes’ problem-solving, from how he deduces that Watson has been in Afghanistan (A Study in Scarlet) to his use of pipe-smoking (“a three-pipe problem”) as a way to create psychological distance from the conundrum in “The Adventure of the Red-Headed League.”

She notes that walking and meditation can also be useful exercises for clearing the mind.

“The most powerful mind is the quiet mind,” she writes. Will enthrall Baker Street aficionados while introducing many readers to the mindful way of life. [From: Kirkusreviews.com]

“We are terrible at seeking evidence that challenges our own beliefs, but other people do us this favor, just as we are good at finding errors in other people’s beliefs.” 

Now Watch Her Video:

What Sherlock Holmes Can Teach Us About Decision Making – Maria Konnikova ; TIME 17:55


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