Mental Models? What Are Those?

According to Wikipedia:

A mental model is an explanation of someone's thought process about how something works in the real world. It is a representation of the surrounding world, the relationships between its various parts and a person's intuitive perception about his or her own acts and their consequences. Mental models can help shape behaviour and set an approach to solving problems (similar to a personal algorithm) and doing tasks.

I like to think of mental models as the “biggest ideas” from various disciplines of human thought (psychology, economics, physics, mathematics, etc.) that are useful across disciplinary boundaries.

So, with that being said, here are my favorite resources, both in print and online, for learning more (about) mental models.

Mental Models: The Best Way to Make Intelligent Decisions (109 Models Explained); Farnam Street

My first exposure to the concept of “mental models” was through Shane Parrish’s blog, Farnam Street. This page is an excellent introduction to the concept of mental models in general, as well as an extensive list of useful mental models!

Mental Models I Find Repeatedly Useful; Gabriel Weinberg, via Medium

Here’s what Weinberg has to say:

"A mental model is just a concept you can use to help try to explain things (e.g. Hanlon’s Razor — “never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by carelessness.”). There are tens of thousands of mental models, and every discipline has their own set that you can learn through coursework, mentorship, or first-hand experience. "There is a much smaller set of concepts, however, that come up repeatedly in day-to-day decision making, problem solving, and truth seeking. As Munger says, “80 or 90 important models will carry about 90% of the freight in making you a worldly‑wise person.” "This post is my attempt to enumerate the mental models that are repeatedly useful to me. This set is clearly biased from my own experience and surely incomplete. I hope to continue to revise it as I remember and learn more."

Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models, by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann

Building upon his wildly popular Medium post (above), Gabriel Weinberg teamed up with his wife, Lauren McCann, to produce this excellent book. Unlike some other collections of mental models, Weinberg and McCann’s groups mental models together by topic/problem, instead of by discipline of origin. So, for example, they have a chapter devoted to making better decisions, and another chapter about spending your time wisely.

I highly recommend this book! Other useful mental models books include:

Mental Models: Learn How to Think Better and Gain a Mental Edge; James Clear

I’ve really been enjoying James Clear’s writing on the topics of habits and physical fitness. Turns out, he’s also got an excellent introduction to mental models! is definitely worth regular visits.

Podcast #471: Using Mental Models to Make Better Decisions; Art of Manliness

This is an interview with Shane Parrish (of Farnam Street, the first resource I listed above). If you prefer learning through audio, then this would be an excellent place to start in learning about mental models.

Any other mental models resources that you’d recommend?

Any mental models that you find repeatedly useful?

Let me know in the comments below!