How to Train Your Brain to Think Faster

After our recent experience with the coin, I have been thinking about a new skill that would be great to have – the ability to think quickly on your feet. Actually, to be honest, the real inspiration for this has existed for far longer but it was the recent event that finally prompted me to sit down and write about it.

After the incident with Hercules, I went back to search what the proper method for handling an emergency in the event of a swallowed object. Even armed with the knowledge of what to do, I can’t help but wonder if I would have been able to handle the situation if the coin had lodged in a position that made it hard for Hercules to breathe. I did an first aid course many years ago as part of my training and I remember the broad strokes for DRABC – danger, response, airway, breathing and circulation. I remember the rules of how to do EAR (expired air resuscitation) and ECC (external cardiac compressions), but if I had to do it all in an emergency situation, would I be able to? I don’t know.

It’s easy to think clearly when you’re not under pressure. It is easy to run through all the things you were taught and to apply it when it doesn’t count. The question is whether we can apply our knowledge and think clearly if the life of a loved one depended upon it. Sometimes we freeze from the shock of it all. Sometimes we react with the wrong responses because we panic. Sometimes we forget to think and proceed logically because we’re clouded by emotions.

I find that whenever I am looking back in retrospect, it is easy to see how I should have responded but what I think after the fact is usually quite different to how I actually responded at the time. It would be great if I could respond to emergency situations with the ability to think clearly and quickly. I’m sure such a skill would come in handy to my boys as well.

Have you ever seen the movie “Flight” starring Denzel Washingston? Just in case you haven’t, let me give you the overview: in the movie, Denzel Washington plays an airline pilot, Captain Whip Whitaker, who successfully navigates a malfunctioning passenger plane to a “safe” landing, saving 96 out of the 100 passengers aboard. There were a lot of other issues being explored in this movie but the point I want to bring up was Whip’s ability to think creatively and respond quickly during an emergency that would otherwise have resulted in the death of everyone aboard the aircraft. At one point of the movie, they highlight that fact:

“The FAA and the NTSB took 10 pilots, placed them in simulators, recreated the events that led to this plane falling out of the sky. Do you know how many of them were able to safely land the planes? Not one. Every pilot crashed the aircraft, killed everybody on board. You were the only one who could do it!”

So we’re not just talking about the ability to think quickly, but the ability to think well under pressure. Some people are naturally better at this than others but if we wanted to, could it be a skill that we can develop? If we could develop it, how is it done?

It is obvious that practice and experience counts for something. The experts in any field would be better at thinking quickly and responding well in situations related to their expertise. For instance, you would expect ER doctors to be able to respond more quickly and with greater proficiency to medical emergencies compared to an individual who has simply been through a first aid course. But what if you didn’t have the practice an experience? Is there a general way to train your thinking so that you can think faster and better no matter what the situation required?

According to Posit Science, there is. In fact, Posit Science has several exercises that are specifically designed to speed up the brain to think faster and more efficiently in any situation. Here they are:

And you can try them for free if you sign up for a free account with Brain HQ by Posit Science.

What other exercises and games can you play to help speed up your reaction time?

While I was searching for ways to train thinking speed for children, I stumbled upon The BrainFit Studio. Unfortunately, it’s only available in Singapore so I cannot comment beyond their website. Maybe the parents who have been to see the center and have sent their children there can comment.


If you would like to get your child interested in this subject as a means for motivating him to train his brain to think faster, check out the project suggestions at Science Buddies:

In summary, even though some people are born with the genetic disposition to think faster and some are not, it’s good to know that we are not limited to what we were born with. The brain is like a muscle – exercise it.

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Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of (a website on parenting, education, child development) and (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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