What are mental models?


You'll hear leaders, investors, students of decision-making use the phrase "mental models". But what does it mean?

1. There's no one succinct definition of the phrase 'mental model'. Legendary investor Charlie Munger made the concept famous, talking about why smart people amass a collection of models of how different things work: "You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head".

Peter Senge, author of the Fifth Discipline says: “Mental models are deeply held internal images of how the world works, images that limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting. Very often, we are not consciously aware of our mental models or the effects they have on our behavior”.

2. Since there's no clear definition, there are different collections of mental models, and there are no strict boundaries. People have dubbed all of these mental models: the idea of 'confirmation bias' in psychology, the 80/20 rule in prioritising, the laws of probability in maths

3. Unless you are seeking academic rigour, you can, as a real-world practitioner, just keep amass models & quasi-models and connect them. Knowing the union, intersection, and limitations of these concepts is where you extract their true power. Use them as possible levers to #uplevel your world.

4. Here are some good places to learn about mental models:

+ @InvertedPassion: (meta mental models! - start with this to organise your thoughts)

@farnamstreet: farnamstreetblog.com/mental-models/

+ @safalniveshak: safalniveshak.com/mental-models/

5. When you study a topic, look at collecting key mental models from that area. And link it to your existing models. For instance, if you learn about 'compound interest', see whether the concept applies to something like 'mind maps' (where you are trying to 'compound' knowledge by linking ideas together)