58 - Various Definitions of Mental Models
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.”
American Psychological Association - "A mental model is any internal representation of the relations between a set of elements, as, for example, between workers in an office or department, the elements of a mathematics or physics problem, the terms of a syllogism, or the configuration of objects in a space.
Such models may contain perceptual qualities and may be abstract in nature. They can be manipulated to provide dynamic simulations of possible scenarios and are thought to be key components in decision making. In the context of ergonomics, for example, a mental model of a system or product would include its various attributes, rules for operation and handling, and expectations regarding use and consequences and would be used to guide the individual’s interactions with the system or product in question. See also shared mental model."
The Model Thinker: What You Need to Know to Make Data Work for You by Scott Page - "Models are formal structures represented in mathematics and diagrams that help us to understand the world. Mastery of models improves your ability to reason, explain, design, communicate, act, predict, and explore.
This book promotes a many-model thinking approach: the application of ensembles of models to make sense of complex phenomena. The core idea is that many-model thinking produces wisdom through a diverse ensemble of logical frames. The various models accentuate different causal forces. Their insights and implications overlap and interweave. By engaging many models as frames, we develop nuanced, deep understandings."
The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses by Jesse Schell - “Reality is amazingly complex. The only way our minds are able to get by at all is by simplifying reality so that we can make some sense of it. Correspondingly, our minds do not deal with reality itself, but instead with models of reality”,
“Our brains do a tremendous amount of work to boil down the complexity of reality into simpler mental models that can be easily stored, considered, and manipulated. And this is not just the case for visual objects. It is also the case for human relationships, risk and reward evaluation, and decision making. Our minds look at a complex situation and try to boil it down to a simple set of rules and relationships that we can manipulate internally.”
Super Thinking: The Big Book of Mental Models by Gabriel Weinberg - “Though we discuss a wide array of topics, we often find common threads—recurring concepts that help us explain, predict, or approach these seemingly disparate subjects. Examples range from more familiar concepts, such as opportunity cost and inertia, to more obscure ones, such as Goodhart’s law and regulatory capture. (We will explain these important ideas and many more in the pages that follow.)”
These recurring concepts are called mental models. Once you are familiar with them, you can use them to quickly create a mental picture of a situation, which becomes a model that you can later apply in similar situations.
The Great Mental Models: General Thinking Concepts by Shane Parish - "This is the first of a series of volumes aimed at defining and exploring the Great Mental Models—those that have the broadest utility across our lives. Mental models describe the way the world works. They shape how we think, how we understand, and how we form beliefs. Largely subconscious, mental models operate below the surface. We’re not generally aware of them and yet they’re the reason when we look at a problem we consider some factors relevant and others irrelevant. They are how we infer causality, match patterns, and draw analogies. They are how we think and reason.
A mental model is simply a representation of how something works. We cannot keep all of the details of the world in our brains, so we use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable chunks. Whether we realize it or not, we then use these models every day to think, decide, and understand our world. While there are millions of mental models, some true and some false, these volumes will focus on the ones with the greatest utility—the all-star team of mental models."
Make It Stick: The Science of Successful Learning by Peter C. Brown - “A mental model is a mental representation of some external reality. With enough effortful practice, a complex set of interrelated ideas or a sequence of motor skills fuse into a meaningful whole, forming a mental model somewhat akin to a “brain app”.”