To Think Smarter, Stop Multitasking

Cognitive psychologist Art Markman, Ph.D. explains how your mind works—and how you can be a smarter, more creative thinker.

| January 3rd, 2012
Expert Tips for Smart, Creative Thinking

You use your mind every day, but do you really know how it works?

YouBeauty Psychology Advisor, Art Markman, Ph.D., professor of psychology at University of Texas, Austin, has been studying how our minds work for more than twenty years. As a professor, researcher and editor of the journal Cognitive Science, he knows quite a bit about how your mind works—and how you can use that information to your advantage.

We sat down with him to discuss his new book, “Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Solve Problems, Innovate, and Get Things Done,” a clear, engaging look at how your mind works plus tips to help you become a smarter, more creative thinker. Enter for a chance to win the book (we're giving away five copies!) by leaving a comment below, telling us what bad habit do you hope to break this year. Full rules here.

Smart Thinking

YB: What do you think keeps most people from being smart thinkers already?

Dr. Markman: Well, I think there are two pieces to that, one of which is a lack of understanding about how your mind works. We ask people to think for a living and we don’t provide any information about how your mind works. We would never let somebody build a bridge without learning physics or practice medicine without learning biology. It’s hard to fine-tune your own thinking processes if you don’t actually know how your mind works.

Second, there’s this belief that the Einsteins and the John Lennons and the Steve Jobs of the world are doing something fundamentally different from what the rest of us are doing. And the fact is they’re not. All of us have the capacity to think more effectively. So much of what makes us smart has to do with what we know and our ability to use that knowledge. Learning things is something that all of us can do and that has a much more profound influence on your ability to be smart than anything an intelligence test can measure. 

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YB: In the book, you talk a lot about acquiring high-quality knowledge as a cornerstone for smart thinking. With so much information coming at us all the time, how can we remember information that could be useful to us later on? It just seems like there’s so much.

Dr. Markman: Well, I think you have to recognize that you’re never going to know everything about everything. What you have to do is simply put yourself in a position where every time you encounter something you could learn, you learn it. From grade school on, we learn to cram at the last minute, but that’s not the way learning really works. Learning is this day to day process of really putting in effort to understand something that’s in front of you, to explain it to yourself, to work hard to make connections between the thing that you’re encountering right now and things that you’ve experienced before.

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