July 26, 2022




Agenda-Setting Theory, The Ergodic Switch, Convexity, & More

At a glance

Welcome to the 300(!) new friends of the Mental Models, Concepts, and Frameworks newsletter who have joined us since last week!

This Week: 10 mental models that will make you smarter

Agenda-Setting Theory

Mainstream media sets the agenda of public discourse.

The more attention the media gives to certain issues, the more likely the public is to consider them important.

Don’t pay blind attention to what’s on the “agenda” and forget what’s not being said.

The Ergodic Switch

In an ergodic scenario, the average outcome of a group is the same as the average outcome of the individual over time.

We are taught to think that most systems are ergodic.

In reality, most human systems are non-ergodic.

Don’t blindly believe in averages.


Convex payoffs have larger gains than pains—the potential upside is greater than the downside.

The majority seek to cap downside by entering conformist professions but in doing so, cap their upside too.

Lesson: Incorporate some calculated risks in your plan.

The Map is Not the Territory

No model is a perfect representation of reality, but some are still useful.

The more complicated the system or territory, the greater the chance of inconsistencies.

You don’t truly understand a model or map unless you know its limitations.

Wisdom of the Crowd

The intelligence of a diverse group is superior to that of any of the individuals within the group.

A useful framework for solving difficult problems.

When possible, seek multiple diverse and alternative perspectives for better solutions.

The Paradox of Abundance

The average quality of information is decreasing over time.

But the highest quality stuff gets better and better.

Abundance is simultaneously bad for the 'median' consumer but good for the 'conscious, discerning' consumer who filters out noise.

Google Scholar Effect

Highly cited papers appear in top positions and gain ever more citations.

New papers struggle to appear in top positions and therefore get less attention, regardless of their contribution to their fields.

Where else is a cumulative advantage at play?

Curse of Knowledge

Once we know something, we assume everyone else knows it, too.

It's why some experts can't explain their field in simple terms and people don't share knowledge that could benefit others.

Lesson: There are always people to teach and people to learn from.

Predictive Coding

“You experience, in some sense, the world that you expect to experience.”

—Andy Clark

Our perception replaces the unknown with the expected to help us organize our experience of the world efficiently.

Ask, “What might you be over-predicting?”

Locus of Control

Internal: You believe that outcomes are within your control.

External: You believe that outcomes are outside of your control.

The more control you believe you have, the less likely you are to conform to the status quo.

Seek to believe in control.

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