March 7, 2022

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 mins

🎁A Special Gift...and 60 more Mental Models!

At a glance

Hello again Mental Models Lovers!

To celebrate reaching 100 subscribers after only 5 weeks, I'm sharing a special gift.

I like to read. A lot. Across a broad range of topics. Whenever I find something worth reading or that I’d like to refer to in the future, I save it. I’ve done this for many years. What’s resulted is a long-list of high-quality, curated resources (800+) across my areas of interest and areas I’ve sought answers to in the past (and continue to seek answers to).

I've finally got around to categorising these resources and for the first-time, I'm sharing it with my subscribers—you are the very first 100 people to receive access to it.

Good answers shouldn’t be hard to find, and there are usually shortcuts to achieving what you want to—all it takes is the right advice, at the right time.

The majority of these resources are crowdsourced from some of the best minds in the world—I’ve simply curated them. This will be a living, breathing database, and I wholly welcome any recommendations you have to make it better.

A Crowdsourced List Of The Best Resources On The Internet

Categories include: Being effective, communication, learning advice, mental models, career advice, and many more.

I hope you get as much value from it as I have!

Also, the resources are designed to be shared, so if you know anyone who would find it helpful, please feel free to share them.

Now, to this weeks mental models.

We again covered 60 mental models (concepts and biases) from psychology and general thinking.

Some highlights include:

  • Cognitive Scope Limitation
  • Bucket Error
  • Law of Narrative Gravity
  • Anthropomorphism
  • Magic Number (7+-2)

As always, if you get value out of this, I’d appreciate you sharing it or my Twitter profile on Twitter so others can get value out of it too :)

Without further ado, let’s get into it!

Psychology & General Thinking Concepts

Pattern Matching

The tendency of our brain to associate new patterns with old patterns that are stored in memory

Pattern matching has a huge influence on decision making across diverse fields. When possible, we should check our pattern matching against objective information

Mental Simulation

Our mind’s ability to imagine taking a specific action and simulating the probable result before acting

How often do you use your imagination to simulate the results of specific actions or goals? This improves our ability to solve the problems in front of us

Interpretation and Reinterpretation

When there’s not enough information to develop an accurate pattern, we rely on prior information to make interpretations

Reinterpration involves changing your beliefs about a past event—it's a powerful tool to overcome negative experiences

Motivation

An emotional state that links the parts of your brain that feel with the parts responsible for action

Motivation results from no conflict or confusion over the best course of action—it can involve moving towards something desirable or away from something undesirable

Inhibition

The ability to temporarily override our natural inclinations (habits)

Willpower is the fuel of Inhibition. Whenever we inhibit our natural responses to our environment, willpower is at work

However, we only have limited willpower, so must use inhibition sparingly

Status Signals

Tangible indicators of an intangible quality that increases a person's status or group affiliation. Rare or expensive items, awards, honors, etc.

Whenever possible, we should avoid playing "status" games, and do things that are intrinsically motivating to us

Status Malfunction

The more attractive an option looks in terms of "status", the more likely it is to have drawbacks, and the more likely you are to ignore those drawbacks and pursue that option anyway

Be willing to ignore shiny distractions for meaningful work

Threat Lockdown (Fight-or-flight response)

A heightened protective mode your mind and body enter when they sense an impending external threat

To overcome this mode, we must convince our mind that the threat no longer exists or never truly existed to the extent we believed

Cognitive Scope Limitation

Our minds tendency to simplify reality in the face of overwhelming information. Can lead to suboptimal decisions as we fail to consider the full "scope" of the issue

“One death is a tragedy. A million deaths is a statistic.”—Kurt Tucholsky

Association

The tendency of the human mind to store information contextually. We constantly look for patterns, even when they don't exist, this can lead to associations forming between things that aren't logically connected

Absence Blindness

When you don’t notice or pay attention to things that are going well

Example: We tend to notice referee's only when they perform poorly

To judge fairly, we should be conscious of this bias and ensure we pay as much attention to good work as bad work

Novelty

Novelty is the presence of new sensory data. Human attention needs novelty to sustain itself

Novelty is paramount if you want to attract and maintain attention over a long period of time

Continue offering something new, and people will keep paying attention

False Precision (Roughly Right > Precisely Wrong)

Occurs when numerical data is presented in a manner that implies better precision than is justified

It's the belief that greater precision implies greater accuracy

Are you getting more useful data or just more data in general?

Weber-Fechner Law

We tend to only perceive a change in a stimulus from any sense (sight, hearing, taste, touch, smell) if that change is at least equal to the pre-existing stimulus

Can you notice which half (left or right) increased in number of dots?

Congruence Bias

The tendency to over-rely on testing an initial hypothesis while neglecting to test alternative hypotheses

That is, people rarely try experiments that could disprove their initial belief, but rather try to repeat their initial results (form of confirmation bias)

Continued Influence Effect

Exposure to misinformation continues to impact belief and reasoning, even if that misinformation has been corrected

This effect is highly relevant in today's world of persistent fake news and misinformation—don't believe everything you see and hear

Bucket Error

When multiple different concepts or variables are incorrectly lumped together in one's mind as a single concept/variable

You believe you can only become a writer if you don't make spelling mistakes; however, the two concepts are in fact separate variables

Law of Narrative Gravity

The public and press are drawn to narratives, and the more widely accepted a narrative, the more it attracts and shapes the perception of facts

Explains why it's critical to shape your own narrative as a company or individual before others do

Anecdotal Fallacy

The tendency to use a personal experience or an isolated example instead of a sound argument or compelling evidence

Quantitative scientific measures are almost always more accurate than personal perceptions and experiences

Masked Man Fallacy

A fallacy of inferring that since one knows (or does not know) something by one description, one must know (or not know) it by another

"I know who my father is. I do not know who the masked man is. Therefore, my father is not the masked man.”

Recency Illusion

The belief that things you have noticed only recently are in fact recent—or have only just come into existence

"Whoa, that's new to me. It must be new to the world!"

When we think something is new, we treat it as new, and therefore miss important context

Anthropomorphism

The attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human things—it helps us make sense of the behaviours and events we encounter

However, perceiving the presence of human qualities in other entities can be misleading when such qualities are absent

Essentialism

The belief that groups of people, such as men and women, have different basic characteristics that cannot be changed and that are necessary to their identity

Beware of this belief as it can lead to rigid thinking and perception of our surrounding environment

Cheerleader Effect

The cognitive bias which causes people to think individuals are more attractive when they are in a group

Arises from a tendency of the mind to not process every individual detail they perceive, but rather summarise or categorise information as a group

Mental Accounting

A tendency to place different values on the same amount of money, based on subjective criteria, often with detrimental results

Helps explain why people are willing to spend more when they pay with a credit card than cash

Appeal To Probability Fallacy

Asserting that since something is probably the case, it is certainly the case

“If I keep doing this long enough, I will probably succeed; therefore, I will succeed.”

Magic Number (7+-2)

The average person can only keep 7 ± 2 items in their short-term working memory

Humans can process finite information. Information overload will lead to distraction that negatively affects performance

When conveying information, limit it to the essentials

Swimmer's Body Illusion

Confusing traits with results

We think we can get the body of a professional swimmer by swimming a lot.

In truth, the swimmer is able to reach a professional level due to already having the ‘right’ body

We should identify and play to our strengths

Streetlight Effect

People tend to get their information from where it’s easiest to look

E.g. We use the first page of Google search results for the majority of research regrdless of how factual the results are. Cumulatively, this can skew knowlege in an entire field

Planning Fallacy

A tendency to underestimate the time it will take to complete a future task, despite knowledge that previous tasks have taken longer than planned

Occurs due to an optimisim bias

Self-Consistency Bias

The commonly held idea that we are more consistent in our attitudes, opinions, and beliefs than we actually are

Example: being unable to see the changes in your thoughts/opinions because you're sure you've always thought the same way

The Diderot Effect

The tendency for obtaining a new possession to create a spiral of consumption that leads you to acquire more new things

We end up buying things that our previous selves never needed to feel happy or fulfilled

Seek to simplify or eliminate; not consume more

Premack Principle

The tendency for a more desirable or higher probability behaviour to enforce a less desirable or lower probability behaviour

You are a child. You want to play a video game. You're only allowed to play if you eat your vegetables. Result? You eat your vegetables

Lake Wobegone Effect

The tendency for most people to believe that they are above average in achievement's or capabilities

Research has repeatedly shown support for this tendency, but, mathematically speaking, it can't be true

Assess yourself honestly. Humility breeds growth

Effort Justification

The idea that when people make sacrifices to pursue a goal, the effort is often rationalized by elevating the attractiveness of the goal

"We come to love what we suffer to achieve."

Is your sacrifice really worth it? Are you sure?

Risk Compensation

People adjust their behavior in response to perceived levels of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected

Counterintuitively, this can lead to greater risk-seeking behaviour in "safe" environments

Armchair Fallacy

The tendency to be confident in critising other people's work, even if we are less informed in the area of the work than they are

Remember: It's a hundred times easeier to criticize than create

Appeal to Novelty Fallacy

Claiming that something must be superior simply because it's "new"—can apply to a product or idea

"Keeping up with the latest trends is always an excellent idea."

Good things tend to stick around for a reason (The Lindy Effect)

Disposition Effect

A tendency to prematurely sell assets that have made gains, while holding on to assets that are losing money

We are driven to sell winning investments to ensure a profit, but are averse to selling losing investments in hopes of turning them into gains

System Justification

A social psychological tendency to defend and bolster the status quo, that is, to see it as good, fair, legitimate, and desirable

This can come at the expense of individual and self-interest if there are better alternatives not being explored

Reverse Psychology

When your true intent is different from what you ask a person to do, you are using reverse psychology

The result is that the other person behaves the way you would genuinely like them to, even though you didn’t ask them directly

Maslow's Hammer

When we acquire a new skill, we tend to see opportunities to use it everywhere

"If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail."

This can make us inefficient by overusing a specific tool instead of the tool best suited to the job at hand

Chesterton's Fence

Reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood

Making great decisions requires understanding previous decisions. If we don’t understand how we got “here,” we run the risk of making things much worse

Hippo Problem

The highest individually paid person’s opinion

Many companies have a HIPPO in the room. This leads to sub-optimal decision making. It's related to the idea of the "loudest voice"

We should always preference objective decision-making over subjective opinions

Ambiguity Bias

We tend to avoid options that we consider to be ambiguous or to be missing information

We dislike uncertainty and are therefore more inclined to select an option for which the probability of achieving a certain favorable outcome is known

Delmore Effect

The simpler the problem, the more time we spend solving it. The more complex the problem, the more we avoid it

Remember: Understanding complexity requires time on the problem. And the more the time spent on the problem, the better the chances of solving it

Sapir-Whorf-Korzybski Hypothesis

Also known as the Linguistic Relativity Hypothesis (LRH), refers to the idea that the language you speak will affect the way that you understand the world around you

Different language patterns yield different patterns of thought

Implicit Stereotyping

Stereotyping—attributing certain characteristics to a particular member of a group—that occurs sub-consciously

Even if you say men and women are equal at math, it's possible that you associate math more strongly with men without being actively aware of it

Prejudice

Refers to attitudes and feelings—whether positive or negative and whether conscious or non-conscious—that people have about members of other groups

Groups can include: Political affiliation, sex, gender, gender identity, beliefs, values, social class, or age

Serial Recall Effect

The tendency of a person to recall the first and last items in a series best, and the middle items worst

Awareness of this can assist us when choosing how to present information or in how we remember past events and their relative importance

Memory Inhibition

The ability—with or without intention—not to remember irrelevant information allowing us to remember critical items only

In order to remember something, it's essential not only to activate the relevant information, but also to inhibit irrelevant information

Primacy Effect

Our tendency to better remember information at the beginning of a series

Items at the beginning of a series are stored in our long-term memory more easily because it takes less processing power for our brains to remember single item

Levels of Processing Effect

The idea that the way information is encoded affects how well it is remembered

Mere repetition helps, but information encoded on a deeper level, through meaningful association, is easier to remember long-term

Reward and Punishment

We base what is rewarding or punishing on our associations to past experiences and their consequences or with values or preferences we are born with

An action that is reinforced becomes stronger over time. An action that is punished dissolves over time

Self-Interest and Incentives Bias

People do what they perceive is in their best interest and are biased by incentives

Don't automatically trust people who have something at stake from your decision. Understand people's motivation

Ask: What are the interests? Who benefits?

Self Deception and Denial

We deny and distort reality to feel more comfortable, especially when it threatens our self-interest

Denial must be weighed against financial and emotional costs

When the cost of denial is worse than the benefit of facing reality, we must face reality

Vividness Illusion

The more dramatic, salient, personal, entertaining, or emotional some information, event or experience is, the more influenced we are

A vivid description is more believable than true evidence

Accurate information is better than dramatic information

Abstract Blindness

The tendency to react to stimuli that we personally encounter or that grabs our attention, but to disregard alternatives

We react more strongly to the concrete and specific than to the abstract

Sensemaking

Our tendency to rationalise decisions and justify choices by telling ourselves comforting stories

We use stories to understand, remember and make sense of events

We don’t like uncertainty. We have a need to understand and make sense of events. We refuse to accept the unknown

We therefore seek explanations for why things happen.By finding patterns and causal relationships we get comfort and learn for the future

However, we should always consider how other possible outcomes might have happened. Don’t underestimate chance

Believe First and Doubt Later

Our natural tendency to find it easy to believe, but difficult to doubt

We aren't natural skeptics and we must believe first to understand, so we have a tendency to be lenient with others reasons

With unfamiliar people, we must be cautious

That’s it, thanks for reading!

If you got value out of this, I’d appreciate you sharing it or my Twitter profileon Twitter so others can get wiser too :)

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