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Mental Models: necessary, but incomplete… December 10, 2009

Posted by Graham Pingree in Sway: Pull of Irrational Behavior.

One of my favorite quotes from Sway comes from Psychologist Franz Epting about how humans use mental models to quickly digest information: “We use diagnostic labels to organize and simplify. But any classification that you come up with has got to work by ignoring a lot of other things – with the hope that the things you are ignoring don’t make a difference.” I think it helps underscore the inherent compromise in using mental models to interpret different situations: we need these shortcuts to function effectively and make decisions in real-time, but they are necessarily built on incomplete information. The challenge becomes knowing when to adjust these models, or augment them with new assumptions or relationships. Almost all of the irrational decisions that the authors provide throughout the book are traceable to an incomplete model, and the authors point to several behavioral traits (Loss Aversion, Value Attribution or Diagnosis Bias) that help classify the different ways in which we rely on hidden assumptions or faulty reasoning.


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