In honor of her new book, The Biggest Bluff, we’ll spend this week revisiting Maria Konnikova’s book Mastermind: How to think like Sherlock Holmes.
In his book, Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman describes the brain as two parts, System 1 and System 2. Our brains aren’t actually distinct units like bacon and spaghetti are part of carbonara, but this is a handy framing.
Konnikova frames things nicely too, inspiring readers to think about brain attics, which like real attics have structure and contents. The structure of our cranial lofts isn’t boards but ego, experiences and our evolutionary tendencies (neé biases). One of which is omission neglect:
“We fail to note what we did not perceive up front, and we fail to inquire further or take the missing pieces into account when we make our decisions.”
Consider the choice of college. Questions about degrees, reputations, and job prospects all fill the top of our lists, but what about ideas like graduating early, semesters-at-work, or work experience for credit? Until prompted we don’t consider it. That’s the kind of thinking we’re dealing with.
The contents of our upstairs abodes is made up of whatever we fill it with. Garbage in, garbage out.
One bit of self-help advice I’ve always struggled with is to embrace boredom. I think what those advocates are getting at is acting like a Simpson, but not Homer. It’s Marge who takes the opportunity to clean out the attic, rearrange the good stuff, and pitch the junk. That’s what boredom allows.
To be more like the Victorian mastermind, we’ll do well to consume good and practice good thinking.