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.
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
- Magic Number (7+-2)
Without further ado, let’s get into it!
Psychology & General Thinking Concepts
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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?
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?
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
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
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.”
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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!