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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes
     

Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

4.0 6
by Maria Konnikova
 

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From the author of The Confidence Game (January 2016), The New York Times bestselling guide to thinking like literature's greatest detective

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

Overview

From the author of The Confidence Game (January 2016), The New York Times bestselling guide to thinking like literature's greatest detective

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.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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. B&w photos. Agent: Seth Fishman, the Gernert Agency. (Jan. 7)
From the Publisher
“An entertaining blend of Holmesiana and modern-day neuroscience.”
New York Times
 
“Maria Konnikova, a science writer and graduate student in psychology, has crafted a clearly written guide to the mysteries of logical deduction.”
Dallas Morning News
 
“Steven Pinker meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this entertaining, insightful look at how the fictional London crime-solver used sophisticated mental strategies to solve complex problems of logic and deduction… This practical, enjoyable book, packed with modern science and real-life examples, shows you how to get your inner Holmes on and is worth at least a few hours of pipe-smoking reflection in a comfortable leather chair.”
Boston Globe
 
“The book is part literary analysis and part self-help guide, teaching readers how to sharpen the ways they observe the world, store and retrieve memories, and make decisions.”
Scientific American
 
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes is fascinating from cover to cover — highly recommended.”
—Brain Pickings
 
“Your favorite mental short-cuts and slip-ups are all here. But Ms. Konnikova finds an ingenious delivery system. Holmes and Watson, she shows, respectively personify our rational and intuitive modes of thought. In story after story, taking the time to think carefully allows Holmes to school his slack-jawed sidekick.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“The book is part literary analysis and part self-help guide, teaching readers how to sharpen the ways they observe the world, store and retrieve memories, and make decisions.”
Scientific American
 
“The fast-paced, high-tech world we inhabit may be more complex than Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street, but we can still leverage the mental strategies of the renowned reasoner…Forcing the mind to observe, imagine and deduce can make the brain more precise—important for solving cases or simply staying sharp as we age.”
Psychology Today
 
“Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle’s conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability... A few hours in Konnikova’s company and, along with Holmes, you might intone, ‘give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere’ (The Sign of Four, 1890).”
Nature
 
“Have you ever thought about how your mind organizes information? Have you ever wished you could access that data more quickly? Could recollect it easier? Or have you simply wanted to think more clearly at key moments?... This book is an absolute must if you're in the market for training yourself to think more like Sherlock Holmes.”
—SheKnows.com
 
“A bright and entertaining how-to aimed at helping readers engage in the awareness described by psychologists from William James to Ellen Langer.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“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.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
 
“A delightful tour of the science of memory, creativity, and reasoning, illustrated with the help of history’s most famous reasoner, Sherlock Holmes himself. Maria Konnikova is an engaging and insightful guide to this fascinating material, which will help you master your own mind.”
—Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought
 
“Far from elementary, Maria Konnikova’s new book is a challenging and insightful study of the human mind, illustrated with cases from the career of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes himself would have been proud to author this fine work!”
—Leslie S. Klinger, New York Times-best-selling author/editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
 
“Maria Konnikova’s bright and brilliant new book is nothing less than a primer on how be awake, a manual on how to work ourselves free of our unconscious biases, our habitual distractions, and the muddle of our everyday minds. Holmes fan or not, the reader will find Mastermind to be bracing, fascinating, and above all — and most important — hopeful.”
—Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind
 
“Since my earliest days as a reader I dreamt of being more like Sherlock Holmes and failed miserably whenever I tried. Needless to say, MASTERMIND is the book I didn't realize I was waiting for. Maria Konnikova has crafted a surprising and ingenious book that lets us all come closer to Holmes's genius, giving a gift to all readers interested in Conan Doyle, mysteries and scientific thinking as well as those who simply want to be more self-aware about the inner workings of our minds.”
—Matthew Pearl, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dante Club
 
“‘You know my methods,’ Sherlock Holmes once said to Dr. Watson. ‘Apply them!’ Science writer Maria Konnikova has made those instructions the inspiration for what turns out to be a delightfully intelligent book. Using Holmes and Watson as both muse and metaphor, she shows us some of modern psychology’s most important lessons for using our minds well. I probably won’t be able to solve murders after having read Mastermind, but I will have much to reflect on.”
—Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh and Parasite Rex
Library Journal
If we are to think like Sherlock Holmes, Konnikova (Scientific American "Literally Psyched" blogger) tells us, we must begin by avoiding snap judgments. Potential readers would do well to heed her advice, as this is not just another "improve your memory" self-help manual. Like her blog posts, this book examines the workings of the human psyche using literary characters as examples. Konnikova focuses on Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary detective, Sherlock Holmes, to explore the scientific reasons behind his extraordinary powers of observation, recall, and deduction. How do we convert our intuitive, reactionary "Watson" system into a more deliberative, thorough, and logical "Holmes" one? Taking numerous detailed examples from the Holmes stories, Konnikova explains how we can influence what we store in our "brain attic," how to nimbly navigate our brain's storage, and creatively fit together the particular pieces of the puzzle. VERDICT Intriguing material and useful advice delivered in an entertaining and original context. Will appeal to Holmes fans and anyone looking to give up distracted multitasking and embrace mindfulness.—Sara Holder, McGill Univ. Libs., Montreal
Kirkus Reviews
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.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780143124344
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
12/31/2013
Pages:
288
Sales rank:
73,754
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher
“An entertaining blend of Holmesiana and modern-day neuroscience.”
New York Times
 
“Maria Konnikova, a science writer and graduate student in psychology, has crafted a clearly written guide to the mysteries of logical deduction.”
Dallas Morning News
 
“Steven Pinker meets Sir Arthur Conan Doyle in this entertaining, insightful look at how the fictional London crime-solver used sophisticated mental strategies to solve complex problems of logic and deduction… This practical, enjoyable book, packed with modern science and real-life examples, shows you how to get your inner Holmes on and is worth at least a few hours of pipe-smoking reflection in a comfortable leather chair.”
Boston Globe
 
“The book is part literary analysis and part self-help guide, teaching readers how to sharpen the ways they observe the world, store and retrieve memories, and make decisions.”
Scientific American
 
Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes is fascinating from cover to cover — highly recommended.”
—Brain Pickings
 
“Your favorite mental short-cuts and slip-ups are all here. But Ms. Konnikova finds an ingenious delivery system. Holmes and Watson, she shows, respectively personify our rational and intuitive modes of thought. In story after story, taking the time to think carefully allows Holmes to school his slack-jawed sidekick.”
The Wall Street Journal
 
“The book is part literary analysis and part self-help guide, teaching readers how to sharpen the ways they observe the world, store and retrieve memories, and make decisions.”
Scientific American
 
“The fast-paced, high-tech world we inhabit may be more complex than Sherlock Holmes’s Baker Street, but we can still leverage the mental strategies of the renowned reasoner…Forcing the mind to observe, imagine and deduce can make the brain more precise—important for solving cases or simply staying sharp as we age.”
Psychology Today
 
“Devotees of Arthur Conan Doyle’s conundrum-cracker will be thrilled by this portmanteau of strategies for sharpening cognitive ability... A few hours in Konnikova’s company and, along with Holmes, you might intone, ‘give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere’ (The Sign of Four, 1890).”
Nature
 
“Have you ever thought about how your mind organizes information? Have you ever wished you could access that data more quickly? Could recollect it easier? Or have you simply wanted to think more clearly at key moments?... This book is an absolute must if you're in the market for training yourself to think more like Sherlock Holmes.”
—SheKnows.com
 
“A bright and entertaining how-to aimed at helping readers engage in the awareness described by psychologists from William James to Ellen Langer.”
Kirkus Reviews
 
“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.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
 
“A delightful tour of the science of memory, creativity, and reasoning, illustrated with the help of history’s most famous reasoner, Sherlock Holmes himself. Maria Konnikova is an engaging and insightful guide to this fascinating material, which will help you master your own mind.”
—Steven Pinker, Harvard College Professor of Psychology, Harvard University, and author of How the Mind Works and The Stuff of Thought
 
“Far from elementary, Maria Konnikova’s new book is a challenging and insightful study of the human mind, illustrated with cases from the career of Sherlock Holmes. Holmes himself would have been proud to author this fine work!”
—Leslie S. Klinger, New York Times-best-selling author/editor of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
 
“Maria Konnikova’s bright and brilliant new book is nothing less than a primer on how be awake, a manual on how to work ourselves free of our unconscious biases, our habitual distractions, and the muddle of our everyday minds. Holmes fan or not, the reader will find Mastermind to be bracing, fascinating, and above all — and most important — hopeful.”
—Daniel Smith, author of Monkey Mind
 
“Since my earliest days as a reader I dreamt of being more like Sherlock Holmes and failed miserably whenever I tried. Needless to say, MASTERMIND is the book I didn't realize I was waiting for. Maria Konnikova has crafted a surprising and ingenious book that lets us all come closer to Holmes's genius, giving a gift to all readers interested in Conan Doyle, mysteries and scientific thinking as well as those who simply want to be more self-aware about the inner workings of our minds.”
—Matthew Pearl, New York Times-bestselling author of The Dante Club
 
“‘You know my methods,’ Sherlock Holmes once said to Dr. Watson. ‘Apply them!’ Science writer Maria Konnikova has made those instructions the inspiration for what turns out to be a delightfully intelligent book. Using Holmes and Watson as both muse and metaphor, she shows us some of modern psychology’s most important lessons for using our minds well. I probably won’t be able to solve murders after having read Mastermind, but I will have much to reflect on.”
—Carl Zimmer, author of Soul Made Flesh and Parasite Rex

Meet the Author

Maria Konnikova’s articles have 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, the Scientific American MIND, WIRED, and the Scientific American, among numerous other publications. Maria blogs regularly for the New Yorker and formerly wrote the “Literally Psyched” column for the 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.

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Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
popscipopulizer More than 1 year ago
*A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, January 28, 2013. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's character Sherlock Holmes is as popular today as when he was created back in the late 19th century. This comes as no surprise, of course, since there is just something about Holmes' peculiar qualities--his keen observation, clever imagination, and incisive reasoning capabilities--that is both awe-inspiring and inspirational. We admire Holmes for cutting through the errors of thought that are so common to us in our daily lives. And yet we recognize that there is nothing in Holmes' thought that is entirely out of reach for us. Indeed, his qualities are not so much superhuman as human plus: human qualities taken to their extreme. Still, human qualities taken to their extreme are intimidating enough, and we may find ourselves doubting whether we could ever really think like Sherlock--even if we put our minds to it. But for cognitive psychologist Anna Konnikova, we should think again. Holmes' prowess, Konnikova argues, rests no so much in his mental powers as in his mental approach. Specifically, Holmes has succeeded in making his thought methodical and systematic--essentially bringing the scientific method and scientific thinking to his detective work. This is an approach to thinking which, Konnikova argues, we can all practice. More importantly, it is an approach to thinking that can extend well beyond sleuthing. Indeed, it is a general approach that can help us get at the truth in virtually any arena, as well as help us solve virtually any problem. It is simply a matter of bringing a little science to the art of thought--and it is this very thing that Konnikova aims to help us achieve in her new book 'Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes'. Holmes' approach seems straightforward enough; however, it is easier said than done. Indeed, our minds can and often do go wrong at any one of the steps. Konnikova construes it like this: our minds have two distinct modes of thought. The first of these modes operates quickly and automatically. It is our default mode, in that it is the one that we rely on as a matter of course. While it may be quick and effortless, it is also very error-prone. Our second mode of thought is slower and more deliberate. It has the potential to be far more accurate than our default mode, but it takes effort, and this is effort that we often aren’t willing to expend. Still, Konnikova contends that activating the second mode is worth the effort. What’s more, the more we employ this mode, the more habitual and the less effortful it becomes (Konnikova refers to the 2 modes as our Watsonian and Holmesian systems). Readers of Kahneman's 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' will no doubt recognize many of the phenomenon and psychological experiments talked about here. However, unlike in Kahneman's book, Konnikova makes much more of an effort to explain how we can overcome the errors of our Watsonian system. I found these efforts to be worthwhile for the most part. Also, I found Konnikova's style easy enough to follow; however, I would not say that I was a huge fan of it: it comes across as patronizing at times, and she does engage in a fair bit of repetition. Still a good and worthwhile read. A full executive summary of this book will be available at newbooksinbrief dot com, on or before Monday, January 28; a podcast discussion of the book will be available shortly thereafter.
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