Supersizing the Mind: The Science of Cognitive Extension

You enter your kitchen for a quick lunch: how is it exactly that your brain solves the problem “prepare lunch as efficiently as possible”?

Your brain effortlessly, almost instantaneously “assembles” a diverse mix of problem-solving resources on the spot. These “resources” can include knowledge, tools, or structures, and can be:

  • Mental: knowledge, experience, intuition
  • Physical: tools, environments, objects, visuals
  • Informational: instructions, diagrams, data
  • Biological: hands and fingers, limbs, the senses
  • Audio: sounds, songs, words
  • Social: relationships, communities

As you prepare your lunch, you are drawing on the informational resource of the printed recipe. But you may also lay out the ingredients you’ll need as you read, “storing” the sequence of actions you’ll take via their physical location. You may keep a count of how many eggs you’ve added by muttering under your breath, tracking this information using an auditory resource. You are also drawing on many mental resources, such as the meanings of the words you’re reading, common cooking conventions, and basic math to convert from liters to cups. You may ask your roommate where the seasonings are, or call your mom for her famous roasting tips, which are social resources. And of course, you are using your biological resource, your body, every step of the way to accomplish all of the above.

Learn more

This post is for
paying subscribers

Subscribe →

Or, login.

Read this next:


P.A.R.A. Part 3 — How to build serendipity into your productivity system

Resurfacing Tiago’s in-depth P.A.R.A series

13 đź”’ Aug 22, 2020 by Tiago Forte


The Weekly Review is an Operating System

In his book Getting Things Done, David Allen calls the Weekly Review the “Master Key to GTD.” He claims it is the single most critical habit

19 đź”’ May 26, 2017 by Tiago Forte


Time Budgeting: What I’ve Learned from Doing 364 Weekly Reviews

Why the weekly review is the cornerstone of my life

39 đź”’ Jul 16, 2020 by Tiago Forte

The Sunday Digest

Building Businesses, Changing Yourself, and Sometimes Both

Here’s everything we published this week.

4 Jul 3, 2022


Good Crypto Investing Decisions

It wasn't all bad

24 Jul 2, 2022 by Nat Eliason

Thanks for reading Every!

Sign up for our daily email featuring the most interesting thinking (and thinkers) in tech.


Already a subscriber? Login