Space to think: The Extended Mind

When thought overwhelms the mind, the (physical, spatial world) is so beneficial for our thinking…. The process of taking notes in the field…confers a cognitive bonus.

Annie Murphy Paul

It was hard selecting one quote from The Extended Mind: The Power of Thinking Outside the Brain by Annie Murphy Paul. The book details the many ways in which we overemphasize the power of the brain and neglect to take advantage of how the mind interacts with our bodies, surroundings, and our relationships.

This particular quote seems most useful now when there are so many ideas and feelings that can flood our minds making us feel depleted. Taking notes and processing our thoughts on paper, forces us to…

discriminate, judge, and select. This more engaged activity leads us to process what we’re observing more deeply. It can also lead us to have new thoughts; our jottings build for us a series of ascending steps from which we can survey new vistas.

This is in part because…

All of us seem to use the brain’s built-in navigational systems to construct mental maps, not just of physical places but of the more abstact landscape of concepts and data–the space of ideas.

Paul suggests this explains why our brains need to work harder when we use only our smartphones versus multiple monitors and why architects use physical mock-ups of the buildings they are designing. Head turns and moving objects also engage the body to assist the brain.

Knitting notes

As the weather gets warmer, I haven’t been working on this hat. But, I’m hoping the purchase of the pom-pom will inspire me to get going!

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