Mental Models Weekly

By Julia Clavien

A short and sweet mental model in your inbox most weeks!

A short and sweet mental model in your inbox most weeks!

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Mental Models - Issue #51 - Foxes vs. Hedgehogs 🦊

An ancient Greek poet wrote:The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.Isiah Berlin expanded upon this idea in a famous essay. He divided writers and thinkers into two categories:...hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of a sing…


Mental Models - Issue #50 - Myelination 🧠

Here it is in simple terms.In your brain you have cells called neurons that arrange in circuits. A substance called myelin gets wrapped around these neurons when you use the neuronal circuits in your brain. This process is called myelination.In a little more …


Mental Models - Issue #49 - Hindsight Bias 👓

Hindsight bias occurs when people feel that they “knew it all along,” that is, when they believe that an event is more predictable after it becomes known than it was before it became known.Daniel Kahneman explains:Once you adopt a new view of the world (or of…


Mental Models - Issue #48 - Expectations vs. Agreements 🤝

Coach Steve Chandler had this to say:You have two choices in your relationships with others. You can have relationships based on expectations or relationships based on agreements.Expectations are cowardly and self-defeating. They are cowardly because by expec…


Mental Models - Issue #47 - Askers vs. Guessers 🙋

It’s best described via example, here’s a good one I borrowed from The Atlantic:Let's say your husband or wife has a friend who will be coming to your city for two weeks on business. This friend writes to you and your spouse, asking if you can put him up whil…


Mental Models - Issue #46 - Enclothed Cognition 🧑‍⚕️

Enclothed cognition is the systematic influence that clothes have on the wearer's psychological processes.More simply, what you wear affects how you think and feel.In one study, researchers had participants put on a lab coat, and then perform a task that requ…


Mental Models - Issue #45 - Chesterton's Fence 🤷

Chesterton's Fence is the principle that reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the current setup has been understood.In G.K. Chesterton's words:There exists in ... a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence o…


🦠 Emotional Contagion - Mental Models - Issue #44

Emotions can be “caught” from other people. This might make intuitive sense - for example you might notice you are drawn to cheerful people.We tend to unconsciously mimic those around us. We mimic facial expressions, vocal expressions, and postures of those a…


Issue #43 - Utilitarianism 🚎

Utilitarianism can be thought of as an ethical system. Utilitarianism is focused on achieving the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people.There are three principles that serve as the basic axioms of utilitarianism. (An axiom is a statement o…


Issue #42 - Regret Minimization Framework ⚰

You can watch him explain it in this short clip:


Issue #41 - Scarcity Bias 💎

I like Robert Cialdini’s definition:When an object or resource is less readily available, we tend to perceive it as more valuable.Simply put, we place more value on things that we think are scarce, and less value on things that we think are abundant.This stor…


Issue #40 - The Ebbinghaus Curve 💡

The Ebbinghaus curve is sometimes known as the forgetting curve. It's a theory about how memory fades - how our retention of new information is lost over time if we don't put in effort to retain it.Ebbinghaus ran some experiments on himself - he tried to memo…


Issue #39 - The Narrative Fallacy 📰

A fallacy is the use of faulty reasoning. The narrative fallacy is how stories - or narratives - are associated with faulty reasoning. Here's how Nassim Taleb explains it in The Black Swan:The narrative fallacy addresses our limited ability to look at sequenc…


Issue #38 - Groupthink 🦛

Groupthink explains our tendency to favor harmony or conformity in a group, which can result in poor quality decision making.Groupthink occurs when the thinking of a group slides towards the views of the dominant group member.In any organization with a hierar…


Issue #37 - Confabulation 🧚

Confabulation occurs when someone unintentionally fills in the gaps or deficits in their memory with inaccurate information. In simpler words - we sometimes unintentionally make stuff up.There are several psychological and neurological conditions that can cau…


Issue #36 - The Curse of Knowledge 🎓

The curse of knowledge occurs when someone is trying to communicate something, and assumes that the recipient has the background to understand.Once we understand something - particularly when we have a high level of expertise in an area - we have a tendency t…


Issue #35 - Action Bias 💥

Individuals have a penchant for action, often for good reasons. But action bias arises if that penchant is carried over to areas where those reasons do not apply, hence is nonrational.- A. Patt & R. Zeckhauser, Action Bias and Environmental DecisionsIn si…


Issue #34 - Incentives 🐁

Everyone is probably familiar with what an incentive is - it's a thing that motivates or encourages someone to do something. Here are two great examples that illustrate the importance of incentives very memorably.First here's Charlie Munger's favorite example…


Issue #33 - Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs ⛰️

According to Abraham Maslow, we have five levels of needs: physiological, safety, love, esteem, and self-actualization. The most basic survival needs are at the base of the pyramid, progressing up to more complex needs at the top.


Issue #32 - Panic and Neglect Cycle 🎡

People and organizations have a tendency to panic when there is a threat and ramp up efforts to handle the threat, and prepare for any future threat. However, a period of neglect tends to follow, as the threat is forgotten - starting off a cycle of panic and …