Cognition – Reason – Brain Training

Friday, November 13th, 2009 at 8:00 am.
by pre.

Last week we briefly listed some of the basic mental skills on which reason is based. Improving any one of those skills will likely lead to better reasoning abilities. The obvious question is then, how do you improve those skills?


If you’ve been reading the entire course, you won’t be surprised to find that our answer is practice. In order to improve your memory, you need to practice memorising. In order to become better at categorisation, you need to categorise things. In order to extrapolate more efficiently, you need to extrapolate more often. In order to become better at analogous thinking, you need to do it more. In order to improve your logic, you need to practise your logic skills. In order to get better at inference, you need to infer more often.

To really radically improve your reasoning skills, you need to practice all these sub-skills, and you need to practice reasoning itself.


Perhaps the best way to do this is to study. You know, like you did in school. Read and think and learn as much as you can. Go audit some classes at your local university. Turn on the Open University TV shows. Find out what’s on special offer at the Teaching Company and download some lectures. Maybe even go back to school!

Read a book!

If the Open University isn’t showing anything right now, turn off the TV and read a book.

The more you learn, the more you investigate and study the world around you, the better your reasoning skills will become. The Buddhist monks may think they can achieve enlightenment and transcendence by meditating in a cave, no doubt some amount of meditation is useful, but to really practice your reasoning you’ll need to get out of your cave and explore the world, though experience of course and also through learning about other’s experiences and thoughts.

The species has come as far as it has, has become as enlightened as it has, through the transfer of knowledge from one being to the next, the cumulative gathering of the salient experience of millions of people is gathered at your local library. Use it! To not do so is to be wilfully ignorant. Hardly a transcended trait.

Brain Training

Many of the subskills listed last week can be practised with the help of modern machinery, it’s even fun and entertaining to play the various brain training games now on offer.

There have even been some preliminary scientific results suggest that they work, both for school kids and the more elderly.

These studies are just preliminary though. While there’s every reason to believe practising these skills will improve your ability at the skills practised, it may be that these skills are less transferable to life outside the game than we imagine. More work is needed.

We hope that our guided meditation, our lucid dream, this month will help to improve your motivation to do these things, to seek out new experiences and learn as much as you can. For the dream word can only teach you about your dream world. You can practice logic and memory while you sleep, but true grounded reason is only found in waking reality.