How can I think clearly

Mind games: ten tips for clear thinking


1. Avoid ballast!

Named after the scholastic Wilhelm von Ockham (1288-1347) Thrift says: Prefer that explanation for a phenomenon that makes do with the fewest assumptions. "Occam's razor", as this maxim is also called, prevents theories from growing wild.


2. Concentrate on the essentials!

Often it is helpful to check whether information is relevant at all in the case in question. Example: Two trains race towards each other on a 100-kilometer route, one at 40 km / h, the other at 60. At the start, a bird flies from the slower train to the fast one, back again and back and forth - at exactly 90 km /H. How far does it go before the trains collide? Do not even start calculating and adding up the individual routes - the solution is 90. Because it takes exactly an hour before a crash occurs.


3. Do thought experiments!

The most popular form of thought experiment is "reductio ad absurdum". Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) concluded with the help of the "proof of contradiction" that objects of different weights fall to the ground at the same speed (disregarding air resistance). If they were to fall at different speeds, the slow one would have to slow down the faster when they were tied together. But both would be harder together, so they would have to fall faster than alone. The premise leads to two irreconcilable conclusions, so it must be wrong.


4. Change your perspective!

The mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauß (1777-1855) was allegedly given the task of adding up all the numbers from 1 to 100 when he was at school. His teacher had just done the math without "little Carl", who quickly came up with the solution: 5050! You only have to calculate 50 times 101 (1 + 100, 2 + 99, 3 + 98 and so on up to 50 + 51). Thinking clearly is often a question of perspective.


5. Use analogies and comparisons!

To the Change of perspective To make things easier, it makes sense to look for analogies. A famous example was provided by the chemist August Kekulé (1829-1896), to whom the ring structure of benzene appeared in a dream - as a snake that bit its tail.


6. Ask questions!

No answer without a question, the philosopher René Descartes (1596-1650) thought that and put everything into doubt. What was left was your own existence. "Cogito ergo sum", "I think therefore I am." To question what seems to be taken for granted, is a fine (and useful) art.