Pseudoscience and mind mapping

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If we can judge by remarks on blogs and micro-blogs, hyped up claims about mind mapping, using scientific-sounding terms, turn many people off the whole idea.

Shame about that.

So what are these claims?

  • That 90% of our brain is unused (debunked[1]) [Update: This article was written in 2010 and at that time, Buzan’s website made this claim. Since then the claim has been taken down. But even this year (2014) Thinkbuzan tweeted that we only use 1%(!) of our brain. I tweeted a complaint to them, and they deleted the tweet and said it had been put out by a new member of staff.]
  • “The way the brain fundamentally thinks is radiant, meaning that it thinks primarily from image centers, and then radiates out.” (Buzan[2]) What exactly does this mean? Tony Buzan himself has been criticized for hyperbole and peddling pseudoscience by a US Memory Championship winner Joshua Foer[3].
  • Making a mind map “mirrors the way our brains naturally processes information”[4]
  • “Visual thinking is our brain’s natural way to solve problems creatively.”[5] Undoubtedly many people find graphical or visual thinking helpful – there’s plenty of evidence of that on the web. But many do not. It is hard to see it unequivocally as “our brain’s natural way”.
  • “Many people seem to believe that any visual organiser/graphic is a Mind Map. This means they’re losing 80%+ of the potential from technique.” Where’s the evidence for this? Is that 80% claim backed up with any empirical study? I have never seen it and the person tweeting this did not offer any link to substantiate it. If anyone can point me to evidence, I’d love to be able to quote such a figure, but I won’t do so based on just a gut-feeling assertion!

The result[edit]

The result of these doubtful claims is regrettable: skepticism, and bad-mouthing about mind mapping.

What a pity this is. Many people go on using mind maps year after year without fuss, without feeling the need to spread uncertain claims, because it works for them. Perhaps the sparsity of easily accessible research on mind mapping’s benefits draws proponents of mind mapping towards pseudoscientific claims especially when set against the richness of that supporting concept mapping [6] [7].

The part of WikIT concerned with information mapping sets out to show how useful mind mapping, concept mapping and other forms of mapping can be, which work in which situation, and gives real examples of these maps in use, rather than depending on hyperbole and pseudoscientific claims.

But things are improving[edit]

Since this article first appeared in December 2008[correction 2010] several of the contentious statements have gone from the Web. The editors of WikIT could not possibly comment on the influence of this article on such disappearances.

Buzan Online has responded to criticism of a lack of academic studies showing the efficacy of mindmapping with a list of references on this page. We have made it more useful with links and commentary.

Other References[edit]


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