Training Regimen

Hey there! I'm sure all of you (at least one of you) is dying to know about the mental workout routine I have adopted to scale up my abilities in the areas of observation, deduction/induction, and memory. In order to keep my own (and your) interest level high, I've structured these exercises in the form of quick games. These games can be played with friends if you wish, but my initial intention was that a person should be able to play these games while waiting in line at the bank, walking to and from classes, and upon meeting new people. They will keep your mind occupied and, over time, help teach you what to look for and what to do with it. They build on each other, so be sure to start at the top and work your way down. I'll be adding more games as I develop them. Finally, these games involve a lot of people-watching so, if you're not comfortable with that sort of thing, perhaps now would be a good time to hit the 'back' button.

Without further ado...

------- Observation -------

 The Detail Game:
          This game is all about noticing. Sherlock Holmes famously said, "you see, but you do not observe." In order to correct for this, I've developed a 3-level game, the goal of which is to get you to be consciously aware of what you see.
  • Level 1:  Simply notice things. Small things, large things, anything. Pick a person and make a mental list of everything you see. NO DEDUCTIONS. I don't want to know if they're right handed, I only want to know what hand their watch is on. Imagine you've been given 30 seconds to study a person and at the end, you'll have to close your eyes and take a quiz (You don't actually have to do that, but that's the spirit of the exercise.).
  • Level 2:  Combine. Once you've gotten used to level 1, you may begin to notice that some observations naturally go together more often (Ex: wearing a watch on the left hand / writing with the right hand). Start to mentally keep track of these relationships. Begin to make predictions about what observations you'll see based on ones you have already observed. See if you're right. If yes, try to find out why.  If not, try to find out why not.
  • Level 3:  Pick a favorite. Once you've gotten a feel for level 2, try narrowing down the observations until you get a short list of unusual ones. That is to say, start to sort your mental list of observations by weirdness. It could be that the observation you make is rare (Ex: one shoe is different from the other), that it disagrees with another observation (Ex: someone wearing a sweater when it's hot outside), or maybe it's just plain weird (Ex: person wearing vibrant purple suit and a feather boa). In any case, find the weird ones, and find out why they're weird. Match every person with their weirdest observation. I would encourage you to ask them about it, in order to find the reason behind the apparent abnormality. Do this enough, and the weird cases will start to lose their weirdness, and you'll begin to see the connections between those cases and more mundane observations.

------- Deduction -------

The 'Guessing' Game:
           Once you've gotten a hold of observing, you'll want to move onto the fun stuff - deducing things. While this can be very fun, until you've established some personal rules to guide your reasoning AND have experience in finding the details you'll need (see above game), this can be a lot of work. Trust me, it's worth it. This game structures deductive/inductive propositions into one of three types of statements - primary observations, secondary observations, and deductions.
  • Level 1:  Secondary Observations. The first thing you're going to want to do is pick a few observations (We'll call them primary observations. Something like "has dog tag on key-chain," and "has new lanyard on key-chain."). Your challenge is combine the two primary observations into a secondary observation (something you couldn't observe without both primary observations). A great way to do this when starting out is by using comparisons (Ex: The lanyard is newer looking than the dog tag.) Do this for as many observations as possible, building up a list of secondary observations in your head (or on paper - whatever you're most comfortable with).
  • Level 2:  Making deductions. Once you have a few secondary observations, your task will be to find out what they say about the person you are observing. This part of the game is going to function half like a game of chess and half like your high school English class. Your job is to take secondary observations (things you know to be true, but which are not immediately obvious) and obtain from them a theory of what they mean. There is no sure-fire method that I know of to accomplish this task - after all, this is why Holmes was such a great detective. One tip is to add generally accepted truths in order to expand your potential range of deductions. I'll outline briefly the thought process I use with the key-chain example:
    • Primary Observations:
      • Dog Tag on Key-Chain
      • Lanyard on Key-Chain
    •  Secondary Observation:
      • Lanyard is Newer than Dog Tag
    • Generally Accepted Truth:
      • People typically rearrange key chains and remove old/unwanted items when new items for it are acquired.
    • Another Truth (accepted because there are only 2 possible options):
      • Subject either left the dog tag on the key-chain after buying lanyard (suggesting it was still of value to him/her), or added it later (meaning we need to find the reason for that).
    • Generally Accepted Truth:
      • Someone could add a dog's tag to a key-chain (usually) for two reasons. Either the dog was lost, or it died. Otherwise, the collar would still be on the dog. It's possible that the contact info changed, but that's not a great sentimental reason to keep the tag.
    • Deduction:
      • The subject's dog is either lost or dead.

  • Level 3:  Confirmation.   In order for your deductions to be valid, you must be constantly testing them. Otherwise, you'll never know if the thought process you utilized leads to logically sound conclusions. My personal favorite way to do this is to pretend to have a psychic experience, and afterwards ask them about the result of my deduction (Ex: "I'm very sorry about your dog ma'am, what breed was it?"). But that's just me. I go in for that sort of thing. Failing that, you may of course simply ask them if your conclusion was correct. 

 ------- Intuition -------

Targeted Intuition Game:
            The idea behind this training game is to experiment with rapid-assessment of situations through intuitive understanding. Sherlock Holmes, during his various adventures, would explain to Watson that often times he found it easier to know a thing than to explain why he knew it. This is largely due to the fact that mental processes, whether they are shaking someone's hand or observing their shoes, eventually become automatic. This is NOT the same thing as guessing. Intuition, for the purpose of our ongoing discussions, will be thought of as a rapid series of unconscious calculations, the output of which are non-specific inclinations, feelings, and vibes. This exercise seeks to hone your deductive intuition into something more focused, allowing you to view secondary observations as primary observations, ultimately leading to more complex deductions in comparatively fewer cognitive steps (Ex: "Noticing that someone is left handed" INSTEAD OF "noticing their watch is on their right hand" AND "noticing which side of the table their pencil is on" WHICH LEADS TO "concluding that the subject is left-handed").
  • Step 1:  Observe a person. Before consciously ingesting any details, try to allow your brain to give you an intuitive profile, a "first a impression without justification." (In reality, your brain will have some sort of justification, but the idea is for you to be unaware of the subconscious calculations involved.)
  • Step 2:  Break it down. Once you have your intuition, break it down. Isolate the individual elements, and highlight any unusual ones. (Let's say a woman walks by - Your intuition goes something like, "She's a nervous mother." Okay, fine. Why a mother? Why nervous?) 
  • Step 3:  Now take another look. Play the other games. Find details. Make deductions/inductions. See if you can arrive at any specific conclusions. Form a second profile about the person.
  • Step 4:  Compare your two profiles. See if any of the intuitions you formed were justified. Try to find out WHY your brain arrived at your intuition (Try to figure out what your subconscious mind was 'thinking' during step number 1. If you were way off, find out why. If you were dead on, find out why.


  1.  Once we get into real-world deductions, NOTHING is for sure. All of our observations are geared towards shifting the balance of probability one way or another; the fact is that no one is 100% accurate, so be careful not to overstep when practicing.
  2.  The point the Targeted Intuition game is to begin to break down what we perceive as intuition, and display it for what it really is - a cumulative sum of countless calculations being made by your brain on your behalf, in order to better prepare you for dealing with the world. My theory, which this blog is a crucial part of, is that by slowing down the process, by training your intuition to see what is relevant, we can gain a better understanding of how we think, and what we can really see when we are watching closely. In addition, with a little extra effort, we can train our conscious mind to see things that were previously unavailable to us.


  1. I just found this blog, and i must say... brilliant! I can't wait to try this at school, and i am looking forward to your next post!

  2. I just found your blog, and i think it's absolutely fascinating ! I'll definitly be trying these games, perhaps I can aquire a few holmes-ian skills :)

  3. I especially like the intuition training regimen, that's something that we all need to work on because IRL speed is important, especially in stressful situations (pre-conflict, conflict). You inspired me to step up a bit. Thank you for that.

  4. I can't really understand the intuition game, perhaps you can give an example on how you played it?

    1. Sure Jessie!

      One example might be observing a man walking down the street and thinking to yourself for no particular reason, "He must be getting off work."

      Upon looking more closely, you might notice that the shirt underneath the suit jacket is unbuttoned at the top, but the buttons that hold the lapel down are secured, indicating that he may have recently removed a tie. Perhaps he looks tired. He may even be heading in the direction of a nearby parking garage.

      This exercise provides an excellent opportunity to figure out what your brain means when it tells you what things "look like." This in turn helps us understand those intuitions to better use them as tools rather than something to be overcome when making deductions.