“Like all other arts, the Science of Deduction and Analysis is one which can only be acquired by long and patient study, nor is life long enough to allow any mortal to attain the highest possible perfection in it.” Maria Konnikova, a journalist at the New Yorker, uses Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s characters: Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson in her work. Within her book, Mastermind, Konnikova shows how the average human’s psyche functions. Konnikova has written multiple books referring to the thinking of most people. She also gives tips on how to best utilize our minds.
In Mastermind, Konnikova hits the point of paying attention to our surroundings and staying attuned to the circumstances around us. If we have lost our touch of being able to observe details, can we retrain our brains to the level of Holmes? As stated in the first sentence, it has to be practiced and studied upon. We may not be as successful as Holmes — since he trained his brain and utilized it often throughout his entire life — but we can still be more attentive than we currently are. Konnikova uses an example from “A Scandal From Bohemia”, when Holmes asks Watson how many stairs there are leading up to their apartment. Watson, in bewilderment, has no idea; Holmes promptly answers. This shows us the difference between seeing and truly observing. Both have climbed those steps hundreds of times; only one truly observed and knew how many steps there were. In her book, Konnikova differs between them, the “Holmes-Mind” and “Watson-Mind”. The majority of people as children, have the former, being eager to learn and observing everything. As time continues, we get trapped in a routine and gradually stop thinking or observing out surroundings and begin to operate under the latter.
To define the two types of mindsets, we must go further in-depth with them. “Most psychologists now agree that our minds operate on a so-called two-system basis.” The first is fast, intuitive, reactionary or a kind of “fight-or-flight” vigilance of mind. It does not take much actual thought, it functions like an autopilot. The second is slower, more logical, and likes to sit things out as long as possible. The latter is more cognitively costly initially. Typically we use the Watson-Mind in our daily functioning. With training the Holmes-Mind is much more productive. Holmes was a genius and with practice he was able to think automatically and analytically.
Having the Holmes-Mind may be more cognitively costly and time consuming, but with practice and persistence we will get closer. How many stairs do you have in your house? Have you been observing your surroundings? Konnikova breaks Holmes theory into four parts: background knowledge, observation, imagination, and deduction. Holmes keeps an extensive and well-organized knowledge base to help him solve new cases. Moreso, he is vigilant in ensuring that he is ever taking in recent and important information that would be useful to him in future cases. Further, Holmes is careful and uses mindful and unbiased observation to gather important information for any various characters and circumstances for each individual case.
“ What the deuce is [the solar system] to me?” This is the most widely held notion about Holmes; that he not only was ignorant about, but tried not to learn about the Copernican Theory about the solar system. Watson explained to Holmes this theory. When he was done with his narration Holmes stated, “thanks for that knowledge, I will now try forget that as soon as possible.” Holmes explained to Watson that he did not need to know about the solar system for two reasons: First,if the earth revolved around the sun, moon, or any other planet, it would not change the way he lived his life. Second, that knowledge would take space inside his “brain attic”. What is the “brain attic”?
Konnikova describes the brain attic as our memory. The frame is the structure of our brain and the things we store in there are our memories. Unlike an actual attic though, she explains that with training the structure does not need to remain the same size and can be resized as the brain is used, either bigger or smaller. Whoever owns this house or attic is in charge of organization. This is one area that others can’t fix for us. They may be able to help but we are ultimately in control of how tidy or messy it will be kept. Just as in cleaning an attic, it takes more time to move it all the way up and sort it out. It would be easier to set things up there and push it back as you get more.
If you use this philosophy you will ultimately use more time than if you organised it regularly. You think that you will remember where you put each item but each day being all mixed up you really have no idea what is in each pile. You may take hours to find the item for which you are looking — or retrieve this memory — or you might completely give up if it takes to much time.
Holmes greatly believed in being well organized with his thoughts and memories. By being well organized and sorting through his items regularly he was able to know what was up there and got rid of unwanted or unneeded things. Going back to his belief about the solar system, he tried to eliminate it since he didn't think it was relevant to him. While he tried to dispose of it, there would be a remnant left in his attic. Think of a photo that drops out of a box you are throwing away and slides under something. It will be there for a long while not being detected but may be jarred by moving the item on it and will bring your thoughts back to that time.
Have you ever gone to school or work with the plan to stop at the store on your way home but when you go through the “light at main street” you discover that you missed your turn and totally forgot your plans? Going to the store was the biggest thing you thought about all day but your routine going home, still you forgot. This is the Watson-Mind taking control. You are reacting to your daily routine without actually thinking through the process of which you are going. You must make a conscious thought about what you are doing moment by moment and through this you can have a full functioning Holmes-Mind.