How to evaluate the validity and reliability of your mental models

Mental models are shortcuts for reasoning. They are a set of ideas and beliefs that we consciously or unconsciously form based on our experiences to shape our representation of how the world works. While mental models are extremely useful to make decisions in times of uncertainty, they are still shortcuts—which can be harmful if we …

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Temporal discounting: the battle between present and future self

As humans, we tend to favour our present self at the expense of our future self. Our present self will eat an extra piece of cake, skip a training session, drink too much, stay up late, or procrastinate; our future self is left dealing with the consequences. This phenomenon is called temporal discounting. The further …

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The Dunning–Kruger effect: you don’t know what you don’t know

Why do ignorant folks tend to overestimate the extent of their knowledge? How do incompetent people often seem to be unaware of how deficient their expertise is? Turns out, we are not very good at evaluating ourselves accurately. And one of the most obvious manifestations of this psychological deficiency is the Dunning–Kruger effect, the cognitive …

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Managing risk with the NASA Risk Matrix

“It’s not rocket science!” people often say. Well, sometimes, projects can be so complex, making the right decision does feel akin to rocket science. Who better to turn to than one of the biggest space agencies in the world to learn how to manage risk? There are few organisations working on projects as complex as …

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Connectedness and complex systems with Dr John L. Collins

Welcome to the fourth instalment in our interview series, where I ask highly creative and innovative people how they manage to achieve more without sacrificing their mental health. Our guest is Dr John L. Collins, a Chartered Mathematician and Chartered Physicist who holds a PhD in Nuclear Physics and Semiconductor theory from Aston University. John …

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Confirmation bias: believing what you see, seeing what you believe

“The eye sees only what the mind is prepared to comprehend.” — Robertson Davies. A person who thinks women are bad drivers is more likely to notice driving mistakes made by women. A detective who is convinced a suspect is guilty is more likely to pay attention to evidence corroborating their intuition. And, while someone …

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Illusory correlations: how to identify your hidden assumptions

When I was a kid, I used to think I was doing much better at tests when using a particular pencil my sister had gifted me. So I would make sure to use this pen for every test. I have a friend who thinks that city people are generally rude. So when he meets a …

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The Occam’s razor fallacy: the simplest solution is not always the correct one

When faced with two equally credible theories, wisdom seems to indicate you should go for the simplest one. Simpler solutions are easier to verify; they’re easier to execute. But, while mental models are a great way to make sense of the world, not all of them should be followed blindly. In fact, some should be …

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Ethos, Pathos, Logos: how to persuade people

Scholars have discussed the mechanics of persuasion since ancient times. Persuasion encompasses every aspect of culture, with rhetoric as a crucial tool to influence every sphere of society, from mundane negotiations to big national debates. One could argue any form of communication is a form of persuasion. Whether through writing or talking, at home or …

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Overchoice: why more isn’t always better

In many cultures, freedom and autonomy are considered critical to our well-being. Having the ability to do what we want, when we want, and to explore our options seem like healthy attitudes. This is why supermarkets are filled with so many variations of similar products. We think that the more choices we have, the better …

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