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Sherlock Holmes is undoubtedly
one of fiction's most popular characters,
having been portrayed by over 200 actors
on the screen over the years
and having served as the
inspiration for other characters

such as Batman and Adrian Monk.
And it's no wonder why we're
so fascinated with him.

Yes, his stories contain lots
of mystery and adventure,

but he's also a character who can make
logical deductions from
the most scant evidence,

and we find that inherently fascinating.
We find characters who
are hyper-intelligent

to be really interesting.
And what's better about Sherlock Holmes,
he's not superhuman, he is human.
Which leads me to the point of this video,
because if you're anything like me,
you've probably gone
beyond simple fascination

with the character at one point or another
and thought to yourself,
how can I think like Sherlock Holmes?
You know, without all the
sociopathic tendencies

and the substance abuses,
just the good parts.

Well that is what I want
to explore in this video,

and by the end of it
you're going to understand

three of the core mental strategies
that Holmes brought to his cases:
deep observation, skepticism,
and probabilistic thinking.

(urban music)
The first strategy on my list
is also probably the most famous one;
Holmes is a keen observer
of his environment.

He doesn't just casually see
or perceive his environment

like the rest of us; he
observes it with scrutiny,

taking it all in and storing away details
that other people would miss entirely
or forget really quickly.
This well trained power of observation
allows him to tie together
all those small details

in order to make conclusions.
And this is a skill that's useful
not just in detective work,
but in almost any field.

So here's how you can build
this skill for yourself.

First, be an active participant
in whatever's going on in your life.
Try to be as present-minded as you can.
When you're having a
conversation with somebody else,

try to listen actively.
Try to formulate questions in your head
to dig into what they're saying.
And when you're traveling around
or going about your business,
don't be staring at your phone

or otherwise dividing up your attention.
Try to be present minded and
observe your environment.

Like many other cognitive skills,
observation is a habit that
can be strengthened over time.

The author W.I.B. Beveridge
puts it really well

in his book The Art of
Scientific Investigation:

"Training in observation
follows the same principles

"as training in any activity.
"At first one must do things
consciously and laboriously,

"but with practice the activities
gradually become automatic

"and unconscious, and a
habit is established."

Right now, most of us
aren't very well trained

in the art of observation.
We divide up our attention; we multitask.
So again, if you want
to get better at this,

be as present-minded as you can.
And to get specific, I do want to give you
one little challenge to
take away from this video.

Next time you sit down to eat,
next time you sit down at a table,
don't take out your phone at all.
Not only will this force you to be
present-minded and not
dividing your attention

with your phone and
whoever's at the table,

but it'll also force
you to make conversation

so that you'll be building
your social skills as well.

Now, aside from mindfulness,
there's one other

critical piece to building
those observational skills,

and that's to gain experience in
whatever field that you want be
really perceptive and observational in.
Experts naturally pick out details
that are relevant to them in
situations and environments

that the average person
just isn't going to see.

Think about how a,
actually I can't say
this word, what is it?

- Traceur.
- Yeah that, somebody who
practices the art of parkour

would look at the
average urban environment

versus how a normal
pedestrian would look at it.

While you and I would just see
roads and sidewalks and
buildings and other people,

somebody who's an expert in parkour
is going to see a lot more, naturally.
They're going to see
the most efficient way

to get from Point A to Point B,
whether it's ducking under a railing
or vaulting over something,
climbing up a wall.

And you and I are just
not going to see that.

Now, this tip is pretty related
to another quality that Sherlock
Holmes emphasizes a lot,

a background knowledge
across many different fields

that's both deep, and most importantly,
according to Holmes himself, well curated.
This is a concept that Holmes
calls the "brain-attic,"

and here's how he describes
it in A Study in Scarlet:

"I consider that a man's brain
"originally is like a little, empty attic,
"and you have to stock it with
such furniture as you choose.

"A fool takes in all lumber
"of every sort that he comes across,
"so that the knowledge
which might be useful to him

"gets crowded out, or
at best is jumbled up

"with a lot of other things,
so that he has difficulty

"in laying his hands upon it.
"Now, the skillful workman
is very careful indeed

"as to what he takes
into his brain-attic."

Now, I don't think you need to be paranoid
about taking in the wrong things,
as the brain is pretty elastic
and you're really not going
to "fill it up" as such.

But you do want to make
sure that you're focusing

on the most important things
for the majority of your time.

Most of us have that
one person in our life

that's a master of useless trivia,
but hasn't really put a whole lot of time
into developing a useful skill.
Don't be that person.
Put the majority of your
time and energy and focus

into gaining useful information.
And when you do, learn actively;
take notes, summarize what you learn,
and try to put it into
practice as soon as you can.

Additionally, you want to be exploring
lots of other subjects
that are somehow related

to your main subject.
Doing this will form lots of
additional neural connections

and build a really deep web
of information in your brain.

And memories that have lots
of different connections

are both more likely to be retrieved
and more likely to be combined
with the problem at hand

to come up with a creative solution.
As the famous investor and
partner of Warren Buffet

Charlie Munger said, "The first rule
"is that you can't really know anything
"if you just remember isolated facts
"and try and bang them back.
"If the facts don't hang together
"on a lattice-work of theory,
"you don't have them in a usable form."
(urban music)
The second mental strategy
of Sherlock Holmes

that we're going to cover
today is skepticism.

The Athenian playwright
Euripides once wrote that

"Man's most valuable
trait is a judicious sense

"of what not to believe."
And Sherlock Holmes brings
a natural skepticism

to every case that he faces.
He listens to his clients
or observes the details

of a case or a crime scene
deeply and scientifically,

but he also compares what
he's seen and observed

to his current model of reality
and all of his background knowledge.
But on the other hand,
as studies have found,

most of us can't help
but instinctively believe

what we hear right when we hear it,
especially if we're put
in stressful situations

or we're put under time pressure.
Not only that, but our brains also rely
on lots of different
little cognitive biases

and heuristics, mental shortcuts
that are very useful in
many different situations,

especially as the human species evolved,
but that can also lead to
incorrect decision-making

and bad thinking.
For instance, we tend to weight
the information that is
available to us much too heavily,

that's called the availability heuristic.
We also tend to believe things
if we know a lot of other
people believe them,

the bandwagon effect.
And we also rely heavily on stereotypes.
In fact, a recent study in
The Journal of Criminology,

which I think Holmes
probably would have read,

found that certain physical traits
are correlated with sentencing decisions.
This being despite the
fact that logically,

we all know that our physical appearance
has nothing to do with whether
or not we committed a crime.

And that isn't even the half of it.
Environmental factors
that you wouldn't expect

also have the ability to really influence
our decision-making.
For instance, prospective students
that visit a college
campus on a cloudy day

are more likely to enroll in that college
than if they did on a sunny day.
And people who are affected
by seasonal affective disorder

tend to make more risk-averse
decisions with their money

during the winter months than they do
during the summer months.
Now with all these natural
flaws in our thinking,

how can we actually think objectively?
One powerful strategy comes
from the author Maria Konnikova,

who wrote the book Mastermind:
How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes,
which was, as you might guess,
one of the big inspirations
for this video.

Her advice is to actively work
on noticing what is priming your thoughts
and influencing your decisions.
As she states in the book,
"A prime stops being a prime

"once we're aware of its existence.
"Bring any attention at all
to the priming mechanism

"and you'll likely find
the effect go down to zero.

"When we're aware of the
reason for our action,

"it stops influencing us."
And as we'll add on to
that piece of advice,

make sure that when you
come to a conclusion,

you can point to the logical deduction
or the observable evidence that caused it.
If you can't, then it's a good sign
that you're relying on one
of those cognitive biases

and that you should probably
work through the problem

a little bit more deliberately again.
(urban music)
Finally, Sherlock Holmes' ability
to make deductions and solve cases
hinges on his ability to think
in terms of probabilities.

What is most likely to happen?
When Holmes is working
on a case, he thinks

like a scientist, and he
uses the scientific method,

forming hypotheses as he goes along
and testing them against
new data as it's discovered.

And since that data is
almost never 100% conclusive,

he generates many different hypotheses,
and then he tries to figure out
which one is the most likely candidate.
Now, this probabilistic thinking
is also called inductive reasoning.
While deductive reasoning
uses certainty and sound logic

to reach conclusions that are 100% true,
inductive reasoning asks what
is the mostly likely answer,

given the facts?
And again, since most
complex problems in life

usually rely on incomplete information,
you need to be able to
use inductive reasoning

just as much as you need to be able to use
deductive reasoning.
Now if you want to see this
probabilistic thinking in action

one of the Holmes stories,
"The Sign of Four,"

has a great example.
It starts when Dr. Watson
hands Holmes a pocket watch

and asks what he can deduce from it.
After looking the watch
over for a few seconds,

Holmes replies with quite a
lot of information, actually.

That the watch was originally
owned by Watson's father,

then passed down to his elder brother.
Also that his older brother
had certain periods of his life

that were prosperous, but
spent most of it in poverty

and probably ended up dying of alcoholism.
Now, this deduction turns
out to be extremely accurate,

and at first Watson is offended,
thinking that Holmes had actually
dug into his personal life

and that he was being a
charlatan, but Holmes insists

that he didn't even know
Watson had a brother

until looking at the watch.
All of his deductions were based on
the observations he gained from the watch
and probabilistic thinking.
Now if you're curious
about all these details

I highly recommend going
and reading the story.

Since it is public domain,
you can read it for free.

But for an example, he does note
that the alcoholism deduction
came from the fact that

there were scratches around
the keyhole, and a sober man

would have never put
scratches around the keyhole

because he wouldn't
have missed the keyhole

when trying to open the watch.
And moving away from the realm of fiction,
if you want a more practical example,
I've found that probabilistic thinking
can actually help you find
things that you've lost

a lot more quickly than
the most commonly recommended solution
which is to mentally retrace your steps.
Now that can work pretty well,
but it encourages linear
thinking, which can waste time.

If you think probabilistically,
and you ask yourself

what is the most likely
place I would have, say,

taken out my wallet, what
is the most likely place

I was really distracted
and might have set it down,

you may end up finding it faster
and that could be the difference
between somebody picking it
up and making off with it

and you actually getting it back.
Now, there are lots of other techniques
that Sherlock Holmes
used, which we could do

tons of different videos on.
But one of the them, which Sherlock
would have surely used
in his investigations,

and which is very closely
related to probability,

is game theory.
And if you'd like to find
out what game theory is,

and how you can use it
as an extremely effective

decision-making tool for solving problems,
you should definitely check out this video
that I made with my friend Jade
over at her channel, Up and Atom.
Not only will the video teach you
about game theory in
general, but because it uses

multiple choice questions as a case study,
you're also going to learn a technique
that'll help you potentially
get fewer wrong answers

on your own tests in the future.
And by the way, it is not something
I talked about in my
multiple choice video,

so you're definitely going
to want to check it out.

Also, you might notice that there
is not an ad at the end of this video.
That's because I made this video
as part of Skillshare's Spotlight program,
where they use their time and ad budget
to help highlight small creators
who are doing great things.

Jade's channel is in the
Spotlight this month,

and it focuses on topics like physics
and math and cryptography
and lots of other cool stuff,

so if you enjoy this video on game theory
definitely subscribe to her channel.
In fact, I'm not going to put any
of the other call-to-action things
I usually put in my videos here,
because I want you to
just go watch this video

and subscribe to Jade.
Other than that guys, thank
you so much for watching;

hopefully you found this video helpful
and I will see you in the next one.
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How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes

1004 Folder Collection
Liang Chen published on March 17, 2019
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