There are many known mental models, but the best ones apply broadly to life and are useful in a wide range of situations. People aren’t born with an owner’s manual. A mental model is how you think something will work, based on your learning and is always based on an individual’s experiences.
You don’t need to master every detail of every subject to become a world-class thinker.
To quote Charlie Munger, “80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight in making you a worldly-wise person. And, of those, only a mere handful really carry very heavy freight.”
But first, you need to build knowledge. To do that you need to show some interest in this topic, either by downloading a browser extension that explains the mental models, reading a book or even discussing mental models with a friend or family member. Slowly you will start remembering, understanding, identifying the models and you will find it easier to apply them in your daily routine.
And if decision-making keeps you up at night, a good way to clarify everything is to write things down. One way to improve retaining knowledge would be to start using these three powerful visual-mapping strategies for organizing and communication.
Cognitive Maps, Mind Maps, and Concept Maps are strategies that help us layout complex ideas, processes and recognize patterns and relationships.
Cognitive maps are any visual representation of a person’s (or a group’s) mental model for a given process or concept. Cognitive maps are not the same as the true mental models which reside inside people’s minds, but rather, they are reconstructions of subjective beliefs that have been revealed to the researchers.
In 1948 Edward Chance Tolman (American psychologist and professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley) made many significant findings to the studies of learning, memory, and motivation.
Tolman convincingly demonstrated that you need some notion of mental representation — like a mental map — to explain rat behavior. This idea challenged behaviorist dogma and paved the way for cognitive science.
More on this experiment here.
Mind map is a tree that represents a central topic and its subtopics.
Mind maps are the most simplistic, and thus straightforward type of cognitive maps. They are an important tool of systems thinking because they show how we see relationships among parts of a complex reality.
Create your own mind map here.
Concept maps are a more complex version of mind maps. They place an emphasis on identifying the relationships between topics.
The Bayesian mental model can be applied here where we must use prior odds and new information in combination to arrive at our best decisions. Bayes’ theorem is an accessible way of integrating probability thinking into our lives.
Thomas Bayes was an English minister in the 18th century, whose most famous work, “An Essay towards Solving a Problem in the Doctrine of Chances,” read about his work here.
Mental Models that you can start implementing in your life
Increase your productivity by achieving maximum efficiency by utilizing the Pareto Principle or better known as the 80/20 rule. You can prioritize your tasks so that you can focus on the critical 20% that will produce 80% of the results.
This principle can be also used in many domains either health, science, business or even when socializing. For example, 80% of the value you get from socializing comes from the top 20% of your friends. So, preferentially strengthen relationships with those friends and drop the rest who bring you down. Be cognizant of nourishing friendships that actually matter.
General Thinking Concepts
Occam’s Razor is the idea that more straightforward explanations are, in general, better.
In other words, we should avoid looking for excessively complex solutions to a problem and focus on what works, given the circumstances.
When you see a car rear-ended another in traffic during rush hour. Your immediate explanations would be:
a) The driver was distracted by the phone in his hand
b) The driver was distracted by an elephant on the side of the road, which ran away before anyone else could see it, the explanation "a" is more likely.
Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.
Jumping off the Bandwagon
The bandwagon effect is a psychological phenomenon whereby people do something primarily because other people are doing it, regardless of their own beliefs, which they may ignore or override.
Jumping off the bandwagon can be incredibly difficult sometimes. “Just because everyone is going in one direction doesn’t mean you should too. EVERYONE could be wrong.”
- Fear of missing out by breaking your ties from the bandwagon can be a good thing too sometimes.
- Not being able to make a decision on the basis of our own cognition or understanding it’s hard sometimes but not impossible.
- Seeing others do something makes you want to do it so that you are conforming with everyone else.
“One Decision in Life Separates Successful People From All the Rest”
Don’t be scared to explore different alternatives, take your time, have faith, believe in yourself.