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Logical Thinking and Short-Term Memory: Opposites of the Same Coin

Logical thinking, like other skills, must be taught. There are many everyday life situations in which the ability to think logically is of great importance. If a person stands at a curb and there is a car approaching, his life literally depends on whether he is able to think logically or not. If he can, he will understand that he must wait for the car to pass, otherwise it will run him over.

This means that logical thinking is thinking in terms of causes and consequences, which in its turn means that it is sequential thinking. Logical thinking means following a train of thought. It is like looking into and predicting the future: if this happens, then that will happen. However, this has nothing to do with fortune telling. It is based on the interpretation of certain prevalent conditions and then predicting what will happen if the same conditions continue to prevail.

Logical thinking is in a way the opposite of short-term memory. Short-term memory is the skill that enables one to keep track of the immediate past. Logical thinking allows one to keep track of the immediate future. The two skills are closely connected. They are like a painter sweeping his brush — the beginning-sweep naturally leads into the end-sweep. The person who has a poor short-term memory will therefore naturally have a weak ability to think logically because the one leads to the other.

An example or two should make this clear. If one is sitting in a crowd at a soccer match, and one sees the first three players running out onto the field, one would certainly expect that the next who comes running out will also be one of the players. However, it is only because one is able to remember that three players have just run onto the field that one can draw the conclusion that a fourth one is soon to be expected. Of course, the knowledge that there are eleven players in a soccer team also plays an important role in coming to this conclusion.

The ability to think logically is of immense practical importance in our daily lives. Day after day, from moment to moment, we are busy interpreting available evidence and making predictions on what will happen next. When I walk along the sidewalk, it is my interpretation of the available evidence that leads me to the conclusion that it will be safe to put a foot forward for the next step. The moment conditions change — for example, if I hear a gunshot — I may have to reinterpret, and may then conclude that it is no longer safe to put a foot forward for a next step.

The opposite skills of short-term memory and logical thinking turn us in a miniature way into time travelers. They enable our consciousness to reach back into the past, and also forward into the future. Without these skills, our consciousness would have been like a person with tunnel vision. A person with tunnel vision can focus on one little thing at a time. The mind of the person who has not been taught the skills of short-term memory and logical thinking is equally restricted.

Logical thinking is not only of great importance in our everyday lives, but is also a skill that is indispensable for children in school. Very little of what happens in any learning situation is not dependent on logical thinking. It is therefore of the utmost importance that parents should as early in life as possible teach their children this very important skill.

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