Hi friends, hope we’re all keeping well.
I recently finished a massive, massive ebook called ‘Super Thinking’ by Gabriel Weinberg and Lauren McCann, which talks about various different mental models. Mental models are basically ways of thinking that can help you make better and more informed decisions, and strengthen your understanding of things.
While I’ll certainly do a book review on it some time in the future, I do wish to talk about some of the really cool effects and biases that were mentioned in the book-
Biases, similar to mental models, help influence your thinking and decision making, but in the completely undesired way. You’ve probably heard of the really common ones, like survivorship bias and availability bias (which I’ll still go over in a bit), but there were also some models that I’ve never heard of before mentioned in the book, like the Hydra Effect, Occam’s Razor, and the Lindy Effect.
Without further ado, let’s go over some of these mental models and see in what situations could we benefit from them!
1. Availability Bias⏱
Basically, this means we tend to over-rely on information that was just recently made available to us; stuff that we just found out about through a very recent experience. This can be inaccurate because we usually want to look at the big picture, the entire history, rather than the single event that we get information from.
For example, one may be quick to assume that murders are on the rise because they’ve seen two or three reports on television discussing some recently occurred murders in the nation, when in actuality if you look at the last 5 years, then murders may instead be on the decline.
Why Should You Know This?
-Be careful not to make crucial decisions or arrive at extreme conclusions that are based only on recently occurred events, but rather look at the history of this type of event first before drawing a conclusion.
2. Survivorship Bias✈️
The best way to explain this bias would probably be to give an example.
Let’s say you’re looking for a good stock to invest in, and you’re browsing through various different sites. On one of them, you read the story of how this one teenager managed to become an overnight millionaire with a certain stock. Incentivised, you begin researching all the various success stories with this one stock and find all sorts of different success stories told by all sorts of different people, leading you to come to the conclusion that you should buy this stock.
This is a classic example of survivorship bias, where you make decisions based on the small amount of success stories, the ‘survivors’, rather than the hundreds to thousands that failed, and ‘didn’t survive’. While there may be up to 10 different success stories around one stock, you’ll almost never read about the hundreds of thousands of people who might’ve actually lost money with that stock. And unfortunately, you will most likely also fall into that ‘unlucky’ majority who will lose money.
According to Wikipedia, survivorship bias is ‘logical error of concentrating on the people or things that made it past some selection process and overlooking those that did not, typically because of their lack of visibility. This can lead to some false conclusions in several different ways.’, which is probably a much better way of saying it.
Why should you know this?
-When reading about all the different success stories about certain products, events, or services, always remember to think about the huge number of failures that most likely preceded the successes, but are never shown. It’s likely that the amount of failures completely exceed the very few successes.
3. Ockham’s Razor🔪
A very simple, yet useful model is Ockham’s Razor. In layman’s terms, Ockham’s Razor states that the simplest explanation is usually the best (and most likely) explanation for something.
To give an example, let’s say you’e chilling in a cafe in the middle of Dublin, Ireland, and hear some distant galloping outside. You can deduce that the animal outside will most likely have 4 legs, and has hooves.
That being said, you will most likely not believe that the animal outside is a zebra, since, well….we’re living in Ireland. Ockham’s Razor states that the simplest explanation is usually the correct one, and so we can conclude that the animal outside is just a horse passing by.
Ockham’s Razor can be both useful and harmful, though. If you have a simple cough and go to the doctor’s , they’ll usually adhere to Ockham’s Razor and give you medication for a common cold or something, and not even consider the likelihood of a disease that’s much more sinister and dangerous. Unfortunately, this can happen very often.
With that being said though, I think it’s important to remember how rare such cases are, where it is the very rare and unusual situation that is the answer.
Why should you know this?
-Ockham’s Razor can help stop you from doing a lot of overthinking. It’s just more likely that the simplest explanation is the correct one; and so using this information I think you can make a lot of important decisions and conclusions.
Alright, that’ll probably do it for this blog post I think. I definitely also want to make this a series, where I go over some interesting mental models, biases and other fallacies that I find interesting and useful to know.
Cool, thanks for reading this far, and I’ll see you guys next week!