For starters, Colin tells me he is 'by no means psychic' but instead he pays a mind-boggling amount of attention to detail. You need to learn to pay attention,' Colin explained when asked how he works his 'magic'.
Once you have mastered this, you need to go a little further and start piecing together visual evidence to make calculated guesses about someone's life explained Colin... although of course you can get them wrong. 'Every time you state something, and it's wrong, be sure to ask for the accurate answer,' said Colin.
'I can look at an audience and know who is going to be perfect for each demonstration and who'll allow me to harvest the best information and responses without really explaining how,' said Colin. After discouraging me not to practice this on people I don't know, Colin explained: 'The beauty of a smartphone screen is that the pressing of any button will be stored on the phone's surface.
I'll leave this trick for my next party, and ensure it's one I'm unlikely to get thrown out of if I start feeling up people's trouser pockets. But while I may not be a master at mind-reading, I feel like I've had a sneaky peek inside the magic circle.
Colin Cloud is currently on tour across the UK and will be joining the cast of The Illusionists in the Shaftesbury Theater in November. Visit TheDeductionist.co.UK for more information. Right now, you may be thinking of the episode at the beginning of ‘The Cardboard Box’ (and duplicated in the American versions of ‘The Resident Patient’) where Holmes deduces Watson’s thoughts from the latter’s brown study.
Homer Angel came to the house again, and proposed that we should marry before father came back. He was in dreadful earnest, and made me swear, with my hands on the Testament, that whatever happened I would always be true to him.
It seemed funny that I should ask his leave, as he was only a few years older than me; but I didn’t want to do anything on the sly, so I wrote to father at Bordeaux, where the Company has its French offices, but the letter came back to me on the very morning of the wedding.” It was to be at St. Savior’s, near King’s Cross, and we were to have breakfast afterwards at the St. Pancreas Hotel.
I hope to impart a sense of the importance of these activities, because many of my students will become police officers, attorneys, intelligence analysts, federal agents, and forensic psychologists. Thus, I was delighted to learn about Maria Konnikova’s new book, Mastermind: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes (Viking).
Konnikova, a psychologist and journalist, writes a column, “Literally Psyched,” for Scientific American. In fact, she goes well beyond anything that Conan Doyle might have known in his day to illuminate Comedian concepts with research from cognitive and neuropsychology.
Konnikova’s point is to use the sophistication of science to demonstrate how, with a bit of mindfulness and discipline, we can all learn to “think like Sherlock Holmes.” Thankfully, there is no attempt in this book, as we’ve seen in recent television series, to set Holmes apart and explain his avoidance of the emotional brain as a “condition” like Asperger’s disorder.
“A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across,” Holmes says to Watson, “so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out…so that he has difficulty in laying his hands on it. Think ahead, clarify your end point, be prepared for options, and develop an effective distancing device.
I’ve been using insights from Holmes for a while, and I appreciate the organized articulation in Mastermind of how any of us can train our brains to emulate the iconic consulting detective. At the Museum of London earlier this year was an exhibit titled “The Man Who Never Lived and Will Never Die.” As a long-time Sherlock Holmes enthusiast as well as a practicing philosopher, I know this to be true.
Since his first appearance in 1887, the great detective has been memorialized by over a hundred actors in dozens of plays, films, radio, and television adaptations, as well as in countless works of fiction. In the last few years alone, Holmes’s immortality has been demonstrated in original television series like Sherlock and Elementary and in highly imaginative movies like the blockbuster action series Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey, Jr., and the poignant elegiac Mr. Holmes, starring Ian McAllen.
“In solving a problem of this sort, the grand thing is to be able to reason backwards.” (A Study in Scarlet) “When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” (The Sign of the Four) “It is a capital mistake to theorize before you have data. Recently, several authors have gone beyond merely uncovering the principles supposedly at work in the mind of Holmes and attempted to convince us that almost anyone can learn to think like Sherlock himself.
By more consistently adopting these principles and by using the techniques of “mindfulness,” partnered with the constantly expanding knowledge we are getting from neuroscience in “mapping” the brain, the claimants argue, we can soon be on the glory road to thinking more like Conan Doyle’s genius than we ever thought possible. Holmes tells Watson that the brain is “like a little empty attic” that “has to be stocked with the right kind of furniture,” and we are told that this is one of the keys to mindfulness.
Subsequent research on memory formation, retention, and retrieval has proven itself to be highly amenable to the attic analogy. Yet, Holmes also and inconsistently tells his colleague that success in finding solutions to a crime often depends on approaching the case with “an absolutely blank mind.” So much for attics well-stocked, chimney or not.
To call something a fact is to already label it as something of interest and observed from a particular point of view, which means that a prior relevant knowledge framework is already at work. Indeed, the techniques that the mindfulness adherents recommend seem conceptually independent of whether they follow the canons of sound logic, generates the true answer, crack the case, and identify the right culprit in the crime.
This can happen only if his reasoning holds up, if the hypotheses he proposes to solve a case are logically coherent and have depth and predictive power, if the processes by which he confirms their truth pass muster and are not one-sided. It took the careful teamwork of other experts who brought their vast and varied skills, intuitions, imagination, and deep experience into the investigation to get the science right and to make sure nothing was left to guesswork or chance.
Watson also relates that Holmes had an “immense” knowledge of the literature of crime and knew “every horror perpetrated in the last century.” His knowledge of anatomy was also discernible throughout several of the stories, as are references he makes to monographs he had written on areas like the typewriter’s use in criminal detection, identifying the different types of tobacco ashes, the structures of the human ear, the classification of footprints, and a book he had planned to finish on the use of dogs in solving crimes. Holmes was also demonstrably knowledgeable about botany, British law, fingerprinting, handwriting analysis, various types of poisons, and dust.
Holmes’s ability to do this enables him to both refrain from premature commitment to a solution and move him toward a productive resolution as the many minds operating on a problem converge. Genuine collaboration is what spurs the expanding horizons of imagination, creates serious dialogue, and provokes the exchange of ideas and perspectives and the appreciation of other points of view.
Yet these kinds of teamwork and cooperation also make possible by their very nature the needed restraints from drawing impulsive conclusions precisely because complexity and depth are truly valued throughout the process. There is, then, a serious and multi-leveled conversation going on among the experts in the many minds of Sherlock Holmes as he approaches a problem, calls for and seeks out more data, and tries out and assigns degrees of probability to the several hypotheses he is entertaining.