7 Mental Models To Understand People & The World

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These Are 7 Mental Models To Understand Why Some People Behave The Way They Do & To Understand Complexity In The World.

These are 7 Mental Models to understand both the people and the world.

Mental Models play background quarterback to your life. They are the inner voice you cannot hear, but you listen to none the less.

You recognise these concepts and understand them so well because you are already living them out.

Occam’s Razor

My dad always told me to, “keep it simple, stupid”… always emphasising the stupid.

Occam’s Razor is a classic reasoning tool and principle of logic.

Simply stated, the simplest explanation is usually the right explanation. The explanation that has the least moving parts and variables is most likely to be true.

Survivorship Bias

We hear of all the victors, but are deaf to the dense graveyard of losers that came along the way.

Data sets are skewed when only the winners variabilities are measured.

There is a famous WWII story you can read about here.

Or another example…

A CEO might hear about push notifications that worked well for a competitor. He decides to implement something similar. But for some reason, they receive significant negative feedback.


They only heard about their competitor’s success stories, and they didn’t hear about the backlash from users who hated receiving unsolicited notifications. Survivorship Bias skewed the data.

Listen To My Podcast HERE On Survivorship Bias, Nassim Taleb’s ‘Fooled By Randomness’

Hindsight Bias

Have ever noticed how insightful people are after the event?

This psychological term describes the phenomena of individuals or groups insisting they understand the eventual outcome of an event. When in reality, they can only know by looking back through hindsight.

The unlikelihood and seeming randomness of the Donald Trump presidential win in 2016 exposes peoples Hindsight Bias on mass.

Everyone has an explanation for why DJT came away with the Presidency in 2016. But only in hindsight, it seems to be so obvious that he was going to win. It is only with hindsight that people starting attributing qualities and prerequisites to DJT explaining how clear his path to victory was.

Activation Energy

Activation Energy refers to the spark that ignites the flame. The tinder does not become a fire without the activation energy.

Think about social situations, between a group of people there is often tinder saturating the ground. Someone accidentally lets slip a story of someone else’s infidelity.

The fire ignites.

Or when Jordan Peterson dismantled Kathy Newman in Channel 4’s dishonest interview.

The racist, sexist, Jordan Peterson narrative provided the tinder soaking the floor. All it took was the Jordan Peterson spark, dismantling the whole false narrative which caused the flame of his huge popularity boost.

Skin In The Game

Skin In The Game is the ultimate BS detector. The concept of Skin In The Game is broadly focused on individual and group accountability.

There should be an accountable symmetry of upside and downside to an individual for every action taken.

Here is an example of Skin In The Game. ‘Putting your money where your mouth is’.

You only recommend positions you yourself have a stake in. When you are right, you receive the social and financial upside. When you are wrong, you lose everywhere.

An example of no Skin In The Game.

The financial managers who sold junk loans and contributed majorly to the GFC. They privatised the gains and then socialised the losses. Rather than them repaying for all the damage they caused, the taxpayer ‘bailed’ them out. They were not accountable for their decisions and had no Skin In The Game.

Listen To The Incerto & Nassim Taleb Podcast HERE – Nassim Taleb Skin In The Game

Streetlight Effect

The streetlight effect manifests influence at scale. People source information from the least resistant path.

More news is consumed via the headlines, then by the body of an article. Less than 10% of Google searches make it past the first page.

At scale, this can skew an entire field, or propagate ‘fake news’. For only the skewed streetlight is visible, rather than the accuracy of the whole road.

Tocqueville Paradox

The Tocqueville Paradox partly explains Steven Pinker’s controversy.

The paradox explains how, as living standards for a particular community rise, so rise the communities expectations. Standards will then rise again until a point where standards cannot meet expectations. It is at this point the society breaks down and populism festers.

Steven Pinker is the best known arbiter for ‘how good things are’. And, in large part, he is right. But people will insist until the cows come home just how wrong he is.

These arguments stem, in majority, from the shaky grounds of his statistical interpretations. However, I would argue that in addition, a lot of his criticism is sourced in the Tocqueville Paradox.

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