Brain tricks

May 29, 2007

in Daily updates, Oxford

Lord Codrington

I have resumed my old tactic of reading through rotation: moving from venue to venue in central Oxford. It is all meant to keep a bit of traction on the page. There is the sort of reading where a solid grip is there between your eyes, mind, and the page. Then, there is the sort that can quickly replace it, where your eyes just sweep along the page by inertia. While it is obviously hopeless to try to remember every note, event, comment, thinker, and idea, that sort of drift makes one no readier for exams. Changing surroundings (light, temperature, background noise, smell, and the rest) makes it easier to maintain a steady and progressive march.

The one thing most ably demonstrated by all yesterday’s experimentation is how easy it is to come up with cognitive tasks that are very hard for human beings. Things as simple as interpreting the length of line segments or estimating probabilities are awfully tricky, despite their mathematical simplicity. Thankfully, the complexities of human thinking do allow us to tweak things a bit and hack our own minds, in a certain sense. Hopefully, I will be able to come up with enough of them to deal with upcoming exams.

PS. This Twain adaptation is sombre but thought provoking. Written about the Philippine-American War, it is not lacking in contemporary relevance.

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