Since the character “Sherlock Holmes” was introduced to the world in 1887, people around the globe have been fascinated with the chance to become just as cognitive and intuitive as he is.
Of course, we need to remember that “Sherlock Holmes” is a fictional character with some “abilities” that may be exaggerated for dramatic effect… but becoming a clear, intuitive/cognitive thinker is not impossible. Here is Part 3 of my 6-part series: How to Think Like Sherlock Holmes.
Part 4 – “Logic and Analyzation”
Bringing logic to the forefront of your brain is key to thinking like Sherlock Holmes. As we mentioned before, ‘intuition’ is extremely useful, but if it is not grounded by logic and analysis, then it is completely pointless. While Sherlock Holmes always goes with his gut, he never dismisses the facts. He relies on logic to balance his intuition, which means that it is more speculation than guesswork.
In chapter three of A Study in Scarlet, Sherlock advised that “It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.” These words he spoke could not be any more truthful. So really pay attention to his words and make sure that you apply the evidence to all of your theories.
I’ll give you an example:
- You notice that your friend has a stain on his shirt.
- The first thing you ask is, “What kind of stain is it?” Is it food?
- If so, logically speaking, your friend is quite careless.
- But you know your friend to usually be tidy and neat.
- If so, then logically he may have been in a hurry to leave his house to get to wherever he had to be.
- Why was he in a hurry? He’s usually on time to everything that he goes to.
- Perhaps he overslept.
- You approach your friend and ask, “Did you oversleep today?”
- If you are correct, he’ll wonder how you knew, to which you can explain your logic in true Sherlock Holmes fashion.
- Train of thought: Stain – food – he’s tidy – in a hurry – oversleep.
Analyzing a situation requires an important process. To analyze a situation, Sherlock Holmes would normally use his honed skill of process of elimination. First, he would discard all of the improbable explanations, then he would discard the illogical, the uncertain, and simply whittle down his observations, deductions, and theories to reach a conclusion that he felt was the ONLY possibility. In the first chapter of The Sign of the Four, Sherlock stated: “Eliminate all other factors, and the one which remains must be the truth.”
Sherlock’s uses a step-by-step process. Here is how his process usually went:
- Sherlock would always make his theories fit into the facts of the situation. He would never do it the other way around. (Making the facts fit his theories.) Make sure that you are using established facts to help further your theory. If the facts you’re presented with mean that the base of your theory no longer holds true, then get rid of that part of your theory. If you stick with this disproven theory, then you’ll most likely come to a false conclusion.
- Sherlock always thinks about who is benefiting from the situation. Always find a motive. Motives can be greed, anger, jealousy, ect. Also, remember that not all motives are negative. There are positive motives as well. These positive motives include protection of another person, safeguarding a person’s reputation, generosity to a fault, ect.
- Sherlock always thinks about how a person did what they did. In a theft case – how did the thief get the material without anyone seeing or hearing anything? How did a thief steal something that requires at least two people? How did that classified report end up on someone else’s hard drive? How did she get to the restaurant before everyone else even though she doesn’t own a car? All these types of question must be taken into consideration.
- Sherlock always works out the details. You need to always keep working on the details of the case. A person is “figured out” by you using your logic and analyzing skills to observe all of the details that another person may not observe or realize.
- Sherlock always answers the following questions: Who? What? When? Where? Why? Go through these questions and answer them in as much detail and logic as possible.