We live in the information age, which means that our problem is less one of obtaining information and more one of retaining and organizing all the quantities of information that we are required to ingest both during our studies and afterwards to keep up with rapid changes in many fields and a continual influx of new information.
One of the recent techniques that have been devised to help us in this task is called Mind Mapping.
What is Mind Mapping?
Basically, a Mind Map is a diagram which you create yourself as a way to organize ideas. In conventional note-taking, you write down information line by line or perhaps column by column. Mind Mapping differs from such note-taking in that you present the information more in the form or a diagram, starting with a central key idea drawn in the center of the paper. Other ideas which are somehow related to the central key idea are arranged radially around it, with lines branching out from the central key idea to these sub-topics to show that they are related to one another. Details related to each sub-topic can be shown to be connected to it through more lines.
Mind maps function on the principle of “Radiant Thinking” (a term developed by Tony Buzan, an avid promoter of mind mapping.) Radiant Thinking means our thoughts spread out indefinitely from a key central idea which Buzan says is the natural and automatic way for humans to think. Through mind mapping, we are able to capture on a flat surface the multidimensional reality that our mind perceives. In fact, different cortical skills come into play when we mind map: line, form, color, visual rhythm, texture, dimension and particularly imagination. Using images in mind mapping produces more precise and powerful associations of ideas.
Mind Mapping and the Brain
Mind mapping is seen as being more compatible with the way the brain functions than the linear mode of note-taking. On the one hand, it resembles the brain’s neurological structure, where the brain functions by creating interconnected links of thousands of little protrusions on the ‘arms’ of a brain cell (neuron) with the protrusions of other brain cells. In fact, one human brain can have an incalculable number of inter-neural links and pathways.
In addition, mind mapping promotes the use of the right side of the brain, which is more visual and image-oriented than the left side. And this can have a positive effect on intelligence, since studies have shown that when the less-used hemisphere (usually the right) was drawn into use in tandem with the dominant hemisphere, this produced a significant increase in the individual’s total abilities and effectiveness. Surprisingly, when both hemispheres are stimulated this way, it results in a performance that is not just twice as effective, but rather five to ten times as effective!
How To Read Someone Else’s Mind Map
If you were to be given someone else’s mind map, you might be confused by the sheer amount of words on it. How does one read a mind map? Well, this is where the use of symbols, colors and conventions proves useful. The middle of the page will contain a central key idea that is usually blocked off by a circle or other polygon. This central key idea (if it follows the Buzan ideal) will use 3 colors. Look around the central key idea and you will find other sets of keywords that may also have been set apart from the rest of the mind map through such conventions as use of different colors or other shapes. These are the sub-topics of the central key idea – you know this is so because they should be connected to the central key idea through lines (preferably relatively thick ones). Then look for other lines which are connected to these sub-topics – again, if they follow Buzan’s rules, the words connected to these lines are sub-sub-topics because they are linked by thinner lines than the sub-topics. Buzan advocates that the flow of the lines and keywords should be counter-clockwise – which is why some people opt to put numbers at each ‘tree branch’ so that people will know which sub-topic comes first.
By the way, it is not recommended that you show your unfinished mind maps to other people – most likely they will not understand the flow of your thinking and will just get confused as to where your thoughts are headed. Show the finished results of the work, not the unfinished mind maps.