During a recent online demonstration of a new brainstorming program called Cognician with its developers, the topic of the “extended mind” came up. This theory suggests, in part, that the tools and technology we use function as if they are extensions of our minds. In effect, our mind and our tools become “coupled systems” that help us to think better.
Because mind mapping was initially created to mimic the way our brains think – by association – I believe it is a powerful tool that fits perfectly with the idea of the extended mind. Mind maps can help us to organize our thoughts, to improve our memory and to illuminate new possibilities that we probably wouldn’t have seen otherwise. As I’ve pointed out before in this blog, mind mapping gives us the unique ability to think about our thinking – to make our ideas tangible, and then to consider them in the context of other ideas and concepts.
Mind mapping isn’t the only type of tool that does this, of course. In the seminal paper on this topic, The Extended Mind by Andy Clark and David Chalmers (click here for the Wikipedia summary), the authors point out that notebooks and even human language are examples of our minds using external tools and concepts to help us to think and express ourselves.
I happen to think, however, that mind mapping is uniquely and powerfully suited to the times in which we live. We are all dealing with information overload. More and more of us work with information – collecting it, distilling it, making decisions with it and communicating it. We need tools that help our minds to cope with this onslaught of information effectively. Mind mapping can help us in all of these areas. In my opinion, it’s the ultimate mind extender.
What do you think?