Detection: Logic, Emotions, and Memory


Would Sherlock Holmes secretly make this statement, especially in one of his drug-induced states? Does he feel the madness of his passions? I think most of us would say “Yes” to that question. Much has been written about his constraint of emotions, his logical thinking capabilities, as well as his ability to put important pieces together.

Yet in the “Disappearance of Lady Frances Carfax” he says to Watson after “losing it”: “Should you care to add the case to your annals, my dear Watson, it can only be an example of that temporary eclipse to which even the best-balanced minds may be exposed.” He is only human after all, and feels everything we do, but through mindfulness and memory, a superior emotional control system, and logic, seems to find a unique balance. In the “Sign of the Four,” one of Holmes reaction to Mary Mortan … “But love is an emotional thing, and whatever is emotional is opposed to that true cold reason which I place above all things.”


 So what does this mean for us? What is the uniting element of these three factors. Does it help us in detection? Does it hurt us in detection? Beyond all else, we protect ourselves and collect and maintain evidence, logic, feelings, and memories that allow us to feel that we, as a human being, are okay. “Self-Justification is deeply  ingrained in each of us.” (Emotional We will distort reality to increase our self esteem. We will even present a one-sided argument to make ourselves feel good. Even though we are a more logical than emotional person, we can use different types of faulty logic to support a position that we want to be true. A few of these are briefly defined (Emotional

Filtering: failure to consider all the evidence in an objective manner. Over-generalization:arriving at a general conclusion based on a single fact. Polarized thinking: either black or white. Mind reading: you conclude how a person is thinking without evidence or testing assumptions. Personalization: everything a person says is in reaction to you. Attribution errors: Thinking you know a person’s intention for a behavior. Disproportionate Responsibility: many causes contribute to each result. One of my favorites–very difficult for detectives to unravel: Confabulation: making up a plausible story for surprising events or behaviors. People unknowingly fill in gap in memory with fabrications they believe to be true. They often confuse true memories with false memories–they make up explanation after the fact. Asch Effect: change your opinion to agree with the majority.

Our logic can be distorted, and so can our memories. They fade over time. The effects of emotions can block memories. Lapse of attention causes us to forget. Sometime we place events in the wrong time or place. If we want a certain result, we’ll remember it the way we want it to go. Our memories are bias by our attitudes and beliefs, experiences and emotions. Memories of a critical emotional state may sometimes not leave, or not return. In this case, our emotions have ruled our logic and our memories.

So what can we do to help be the best of life’s detectives, to lessen the confusion and put ourselves, logic, emotions, and memory back in balance? Back to mindfulness, add some humility so we don’t have to justify situations, don’t deny a problem that comes to your attention, admit an unpleasant side of yourself, as did Holmes above. That’s a good start.  It’s tough for me to remember all the others  … not sure my self esteem could handle it.





Mindfulness Vrs. Attention


 The Mind

Now you are mindful, paying attention, and in the moment. You feel centered, know yourself, and trust that you can continue to learn how to be a better detective. Detection is not an art. It is a learned behavior, a compilation of training your awareness not to take anything at face value (be skeptical), drawing from memory (now where in my memory did I place that?), assimilating facts remembered into a logical wholeness (wholeness, like putting it all together?) … oh, and let’s not forget … imagination, creativity, and motivation. Whew!

John Madina, in The Brain Rules (Pear Press, 2008) discusses “attention” at length. He says that you have about fifteen minutes to make an impact, whether as a teacher, lecturer, or book reader. Keep the most important facts short. The way to keep the attention going and focused? Link it to memory, interest, and awareness. Interest increases motivation. Interest influences memory. Interest is undeniably linked to attention and awareness. We have to be aware of something before it grabs our attention.

 As you know, the brain is divided into two hemispheres. Keeping them in balance is a feat. They share what we attend to–how we attend to it–and what we do with what we attended to. We hear something close by, our mind and ears tune into it, we turn toward it or away from it, we decide what to do about it. All the time our two hemispheres are working their neurons asking all systems on both sides to help. Attention multitaskes.

Back to Sherlock Holmes before I lose you. My time is almost up. In Mastermind: How to Think like Sherlock Holmes by Maria Konnikova (Viking, 2013), She address the attention of a poor policeman in A Study in Scarlet: “And the criminal was right in front of his eyes. Only he didn’t know how to look. Instead of a suspect, he saw a drunk man–and failed to notice anything that would have told him otherwise, so busy was he trying to focus (pay attention) on his “real” job of looking at the crime scene.” His interest, awareness, and attention was on the crime scene. In detection, we can take no observation at face value. Here, the facts about the drunk were not assimilated or logged for further use. The policeman had “attentional blindness” where a focus on one element of the scene causes the other elements to disappear.

I have that with my wine. I see it, take it, sip it, and everything else in the room disappears. Maybe that’s not the same thing … hmm.

Next … we discuss the impact of logic vrs emotions … oh, and memory.

logic and passion


Getting Centered: the Intent of Mindfulness

My husband, Larry, who many people know because we hang together, and he loves the writing world and shares it with me, wrote an article: “Staying Centered: The Inner Game of Pool” for a magazine I was the editor, many moons ago, in Kauai Hawaii. It was a holistic magazine I helped start, called “Inspiration, A Journal of the Body, Mind, and Soul”. Larry is an excellent pool player, and was a CT, NY, and NJ champion–more than many moons ago.

But while I was trying to search out how we find mindfulness in what we do, as well as get centered in/ with ourselves, (as we all often try to do) as a continuance for my “Mindfulness and the Power of Detection” articles, I realized Larry had already addressed “staying centered”. Almost like a survival instinct, we inherently find a mindfulness in what we love, an ultimate focus where we are truly being with ourselves, and not allowing the outer world distract us. Like Sherlock Holmes, the art of detection is within ourselves.

“Staying Centered: The Inner Game of Pool” by Larry Morin

Staying centered sounds like a cliché, proverb or gold, doesn’t it? It’s an elusive phenomena that we strive to obtain; however it always seems to be slipping away from our grasp. This never stops our pursuit to maintain a center of balance in most things that we do in our lives. Although we try hard to live in the perfect realm, life pressures, unforeseen complications, self-doubt, and other factors force us from that wonderful place. We try to stay in the zone by minimizing variables and keeping things as simple as possible while concentrating on the execution and follow-through of what we’re doing here and now. Not easy, is it? It is the same with the inner game of pool; the game that is played to your full potential can take you into a world of pool ballet in motion that at times seems to defy the very laws of physics. It’s a place or zone were it is okay to selfishly steal away precious time from pressures and demands. It can yield the marvelous benefits of feeling accomplished and mentally recharge. It can be a safe and solid place to go to get centered when all else seems just the opposite. After all, isn’t it great to have a hobby, such as pool, being an ingredient to really living life? Let me take you on my path into the inner game of pool. Let’s see if my passion of 35 years relates to the guidelines of my hobby. You be the judge, and who knows, you may even decide to take up pool.

All of us get hooked on instant gratification and results. Runners is building endurance. After running the first smile, they try for two, then three and so on. For the golfer, it’s getting the lowest score, and perfecting the swing. And pool, the special feeling comes from pocketing a ball, or reaching your desired position with the cue ball to get in line for your next shot. What an exhilarating feeling when you have size up a shot, determine where you want the pool ball positioned, and have executed everything to plan! Your self confidence grows! You must know what this feels like. At times, the click of the cue ball and the snap of the object ball dropping into the pocket, and the ballet of seeing what they can do in those positions is exhilarating! You begin to think, “Hey, I can do this a second time, and a third time, too!” Total concentration takes hold and everything else is blocked out, leaving you in your own pool-table world. It’s a world where the pockets begin to invite the balls, creating snap sounds. The six doors that appear to be exits seem to open wider producing ball quick-snap music. You are lulled into a deeper trance induced by more concentration. Possibilities seem infinite. You feel like you can carry out any shot you choose. You are now on the next level of “dead stroke” where life’s worries are for the moment forgotten. It’s the magic zone where you are totally centered. You can only win. And your knowledge and experience have brought you here.

The five steps that he outlines (with a lot more pool talk) are:

1.Consistency, it eliminates confusion.

2. Seek the support of the table. Lock in to your position. Focus.

3. Take aim at the shot you want.

4. Take a risk with your shot. Make a commitment. Don’t change your mind. Go for it.

5. Follow through with your shot. Always look at the object ball.

6. Give 100 percent.

7. Evaluate.

8. Adjust, and add to your learning foundation.

Larry ended with “See you at the pool hall.”

The art of detection: Is it that much difference?





Mindfulness and the Power of Detection

Mindfulness and the Power of Detection

Our brains gives us the power to speak, imagine and ...

Irene Adler: Why are you always so suspicious?

Sherlock Holmes: Should I answer chronologically or alphabetically?
Ortega y Gasset: “Tell me to what you pay attention, and I will tell you who you are.”
Deep in the great minds of homicide detectives and mystery writers are characteristics that enhance the creative powers of detection. I believe one of the most important characteristics, that helps answer the who, why, where, and how questions, is mindfulness.
    There is a big difference between seeing and observing. Holmes often points out his “powers of observation” and what others merely “see”. He asked Watson how many steps in his house, and Watson, who had traveled them countless times, didn’t know. Watson had seen them, but made no observations about them.
    In Psychology, (Philosophy and Spirtualism) this kind of observation is called mindfulness. What is Mindfulness?  Mindfulness is, according to Jon Kabit-Zinn, founder of the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program in Massachusetts:
“Maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment. Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. When we practice mindfulness, our thoughts tune into what we’re sensing in the present moment rather than rehashing the past or imagining the future.” No daydreaming or fantasies allowed. No obsessing over what should have been done, or what to do.
    My friend once called me annoyed. She had told herself to go to the liquor store to get wine for our dinner. She even wrote herself a note during work. But what did she do? Drove right by the store, to her home, into her garage, and then cursed herself out loud for driving right passed the store–then asked me to pick up a bottle up on my way to her house. (Yes, I remembered!) So this is not an example of mindfulness, but it is an example of what most of us do everyday, probably more than we would like to admit. We give in to the routine we have established, without even a thought. 
    However, while waiting in my car for a light. I observed a man going into a store, and as he spoke to the retail person, his hands flew into the air, the retailer stepped back, another female retailer came over to the man who continued to point to something on, what I thought must be, the counter. I said to myself, “God, he must be really pissed off.” I had to move on, with the traffic, from that observation. Once I stepped back and reflected on the situation, still in observation mode (and another characteristic of a good detectives), I asked myself (and I bet you know what I’m going to say): “Hey, can I create a mystery short story around this?”
    Part of the road blocks to minfulness in this “day and age” is the use of computers, iPhones, and digital media. It decreases mindfulness, and also decreases the use of attention on the whole. How often do you notice anything about you and the environment as you multi-task? It steals much of our creative powers. We don’t notice our own thoughts and thought patterns anymore. But don’t get me started on how our minds are deteriorating. Thank goodness for that extra sensitivity we have to mindfulness and the the true powers of observation.