Keep Your Mind Sharp

Aboard the Airship, I am the Private Eye. I am the one that no secrets can be kept from for very long, because I understand how to think creatively, how to get around various weird issues people may try to come up with. So, when I hear people getting frustrated by the fact of things they don’t understand, well, I’m reminded of a phrase that the Bookkeeper probably knows well:

So, what is it that makes that so easy for some people and not for others? It’s all about psychology and how the brain is wired, but how much of this is changeable? Are we bound to become like those sitcom elderly looking for our glasses while wearing them or using the garage door remote to change the channel on the television because we get stuck in our ways? Well, the first thing we need to look at is that of cognitive rigidity, or essentially Difficulty changing mental sets. What that means is switching from looking at things one way to looking at them another, which is known as cognitive flexibility. Imagine having a pile of various sized squares colored either red or blue and you were told to order them first by size and then by color. Do that for an hour, putting them together in order, tossing them in a bag and shaking it up to pull out again and sort. Then I come by and say, now sort by color and then size. Those with cognitive rigidity would be stuck in the old way of thinking and be unable to easily switch, instead finding muscle memory and routine being their way and probably keep doing the same little mistakes until they train it out of them.

Take the block sorting on a larger scale and you’ll see why generally intelligent people will react in fear to change, because they don’t understand how to cope with it. This is a great spotter for people who are committing their first crimes. They are always looking uncomfortable, looking over their shoulder, looking nervous as they don’t know how to act in this situation, they are confused by the new scenario they find themselves in. Since we are talking about games, this is going to be seriously important, both for regular board games and such as well as more complicated like roleplaying games. When you look at playing a board game, you’re faced with some variant of a rule system or some really out there design that you’ve never seen before. You need to get used to figuring out how to make this system work.

Some studies have shown a few tactics that can enhance the cognitive flexibility, which will allow you to be more apt to change. Inner speech, or “silent expression of conscious thoughts to oneself in coherent linguistic form.”. So basically, talk to yourself, at least internally, and it can help with the sorting process of various thoughts and increase flexibility. Of course, let’s not forget that another way to help flexibility is to push your limits and a lot of the more ‘adult’ games on the market, and by that, I mean games with more strategy than just rolling dice and making a move based on that, can help you become more flexible. Games like a 4X space game will have you having to manage the population you have, the need for resources, the conflicts with the enemies, the exploration of the maps and so forth, there is a lot of information to process. Not to mention, let’s see just how much stuff one needs to process playing a tabletop game, plus the idea of inner speech in ‘How would my character act’, giving you some extra ideas there of ways to break out of your old rigid approaches.

Another good book for the Bookkeeper, 1984. The idea that things are changeable and the masses are basically able to be swayed by specifics because they were too stupid to see otherwise.  ‘Who controls the past,’ ran the Party slogan, ‘controls the future: who controls the present controls the past.’ The book shows how people can easily give up the power to think for themselves and be influenced by the system to think in a certain way. That is a great example of the Rigid thinking I am referring to, and this is so much like that from the RPG likely inspired by 1984, Paranoia, where disagreeing with Friend Computer is Treason.

How can you incorporate cognitive flexibility into your day on a regular basis? Well, try a few of these examples:

  • Restrict Yourself: Did you know Green Eggs and Ham was a bet Dr. Seuss couldn’t write a book of only 50 words. Well, I think he succeeded. Try doing something you do every day in 10 steps, see if you can do it in 8.
  • Re-conceptualize the Problem: Take your problem and make it something else. When I was first here in the crew, I was to talk about games. I could do it in any way I wanted to,  and you see some of the examples of what I did. The other day, I had talked to the Captain and asked him his thoughts on Psychology in my talks, since there is a lot of Psychology in being a PI. Well, he said so long as I could tie it into the core concept of gaming as that’s what this is about. Given that there are whole books on how to properly play poker, include how to detect tells of other players and make bluffs, don’t tell me psychology isn’t in games.
  • Do It During a Powerful Mood: For those who know the Sim games, you know they get promotions when their mood bars are in the Greens. A lot of the time, creativity was supposed to be thought of best when we were happy. However, they have found it can come in any really powerful mood, be it joy, anger, sadness, any sort of mood can help boost your creativity as anyone who has been in any of those moods knows, your whole body comes alive. Use that energy to create, great way to channel it.
  • Try Something New: Buy a pad of paper and doodle, even if you’re not artistic. Start writing, there are many websites like this and this that give you various writing prompts you can use to try writing a short scene. A little something new could spark something as your brain adapts.
  • Not All Who Wander Are Lost: Tolkien may have used it to comment on a character in one of his books, but to get those juices flowing, get out and go for a walk, a run, even just a different scene as  you sit at the shore or on a clifftop. Basically, go somewhere you haven’t done and let your mind be free.

We may find such interview questions as those from The Recruit or the Voight-Kampf test from Blade Runner being curious, but if you ever try to answer them, you can be quite creative as you let the juices flow if you pick them up. Try a list of interview out of the box 2uerstions like these or these or these and let your mind have some fun.

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