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You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience—both vicarious and direct—on this latticework of models.

Charlie Munger on mental models
Welcome to WikiLogic, a site dedicated to listing and exploring the world's most useful mental models. Please have a look around, and add any models you find useful!

Mental Models


  • The power of free markets to be dramatically more efficient than central planning.
  • Moral hazard, the brutality of open markets, and precedent setting of bailouts
  • The power of incentives, monetary or otherwise, all across life (e.g. parents' downside-only position in freedom of kids)
  • The best way to have X is to deserve X (eg a good spouse, trust, that job) (this is somewhat Economics, somewhat Life)


  • Economies of scale -- internal specialization, bulk purchasing power, leverage in best practices
  • Diseconomies of scale -- can't address niche markets, bureaucracy
  • Circle of competence (investing)
  • Decision trees

Engineering / Systems Engineering

  • The Law of Unintended Consequences
  • Abstraction of complexity / modularity of components
  • Redundancy and backups
  • Carrying capacity, queuing theory

Logic / misc

  • Correlation vs causation
  • Persuade xor discover
  • What cannot go on forever, must stop.
  • Sample bias
  • Experiment design
  • Sometimes, Fast is slow and slow is fast.
  • The idea that knowing a name for something doesn't mean you know anything about that thing (a la Feynmann), and that names/words are just arbitrary and sometimes cause confusion when people are using slightly different definitions for something where there is no fundamental disagreement
  • "If the path to victory is not clear, do nothing." -Shogun
  • Train harder than you fight
  • Sometimes reactions swing too far in the other direction, and have to come back to center (e.g. vulgarity in rap lyrics, hippy thinking in the 70's)
  • If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.

Favorite philosophy

  • Keep your identity small (a la Paul Graham and/or Paul Buchheit)
  • You can only be good to yourself AND good to others, or neither (a la Paul Buchheit)
  • Interesting way of thinking about work and personal improvement and health and everything else: working for your future self

Where people often go wrong

  • Confusing the way things are with the way you wish they were.
  • Differentiating just plain bad vs bad, but a sign of a good thing (thinking through second-order effects)

Dimensions some people tend to be biased on

  • How much (and when) one takes responsibility for others' emotions
  • Tendency to over- or under- bake things (advice is either "done is better than perfect" or __?__, respectively)

Market Disruption / Innovation

  • Differentiating on important dimensions (blue ocean strategy)
  • Shifts in platforms often open window for new entrants (e.g. MS Office with GUI's)
  • Proxies for demand
  • What's new in the world that's enabling the innovation?
  • Barriers to entry / network effects / fragmented vs consolidated incumbents
  • Rich customers, not competing on price


  • Technology And Courage -- the immense courage needed to do innovative work, and tools for building courage
  • The irrationality of humans, e.g. Cialdini's Influence: social proof, reciprocity, consistency bias, authority, friendship, scarcity bias, social distance
  • Confabulation, i.e. people don't know why they do what they do, and the bias to attribute others' actions to their nature while attributing our own actions to our circumstances
  • People are affected by their environment moreso than basic character. This is part of Cialdini, but worth breaking out into its own point. E.g. with the no-poach fiasco in Silicon Valley. E.g. the Stanford prision experiment.
  • How slow changes over long periods of time are underestimated and tend to result in irrational inaction (Boiling frog)
  • Ideas from negotiation, e.g. anchoring.
  • Wikipedia List of Cognitive Biases
  • Paradox of choice
  • Social capital decays (for example, if I do something big and one time for you in exchange for you doing something small over a long time for me, you will feel like you got the worse end of the bargain)
  • People will often do things for free that they won't do for small amounts of money
  • Joint v.s. separate evaluation (Distinction Bias)
  • Being good: "PERMA" = Positive Emotion, Relationships, Meaning, Accomplishment
  • Face reality
  • Past is prologue (this is an anecdote to things like learned helplessness, ___?)
  • The "prediction paradox": The more humility we have about our ability to make predictions, the more successful we can be in making predictions / planning for the future
  • Conflict has a certain shape that makes it attract a particularly higher amount of mental attention than it should
  • Pavlovian associations
  • Liking familiarity -- e.g. in branding
  • Picture superiority effect
  • Legitimacy exchange -- e.g. at burning man the hippies and engineers exchanging legitimacy

Political Science

  • (International security) People tend to overestimate the degree to which their adversary's actions are coordinated.
  • Balance of powers (e.g. legislative, executive, and judicial branches)


  • Evolution / survival of the fittest


  • Basic probability -- Gaussian distributions, independence versus non-independence
  • Game theory, equilibria
  • A list here of general techniques Map of math tools
  • Exponential growth results from growth fueled in proportion to current levels (e.g. the solution to dx/dt = k*x is x = e^t)

Statistics / machine learning

  • Overfitting / reading too much into limited data
  • Explore versus exploit

Management Science

  • The Pareto principle, 80/20 rule
  • Work expands to fill the time allowed for it
  • What gets measured gets done, and incentives


  • Critical mass / tipping points

Electrical Engineering

  • Feedback loops: positive and negative
  • Control systems, impulse response
  • Robustness principle / static discipline: be conservative in what you output, liberal in what you accept


  • It's okay/natural for not everyone to like you. 1/3rd of people will like you, 1/3rd will think you're okay, 1/3rd will not care for you

Writing / communication (these don't really fit because they're more tactics than models)

  • Use stories
  • Speak in the first person ("I ...")
  • Big picture before details. Meaning before details.
  • Have an antagonist. This creates a narrative.
  • Educate about things broadly and inform re your stuff, simultaneously. (related: show knowledge superiority.)
  • Put numbers in terms that are easy to relate to
  • Use imagery
  • Create moments of surprise
  • What is the one big idea you want to leave with your audience? It should be short, memorable, and in subject-verb-object sequence. (E.g. Apple reinvents the phone)

Product Design

  • Closed v.s. open design space (constraints/approaches relatively known v.s. unknown)


  • Environment carrying capacities
  • Predactor / prey relationships
  • Symbiosis -- mutualism, parasitism
  • Explore vs exploit (this is a useful idea in ai as well)
  • Specialization

Typically Weak Mental Models