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.