When a picture of the world doesn’t comply with the picture in your head, probably your mental models are wrong and need to be updated. This picture in the head is a mental model that helps you put complex knowledge or situation in a simple form. A good example is social interaction. Mental models are how we understand the world. Not only do they shape what we think and how we understand but they shape the connections and opportunities that we see.
When we meet someone, we recall specific knowledge about how both of us should behave in order to lead the situation to a positive outcome. When someone starts behaving differently, we get puzzled and don’t know what actions are appropriate, what words should be said. Our simplified model of the social situation doesn’t work or wasn’t worked at all, we just noticed it too late.
We should carry as many models as we could to be prepared to deal with unexpected things in our life, however, most of us are specialists with a few for every occasion. We need to see as engineers and biologists, businessmen, and psychologists, instead, we’re only looking at the problem one way, we’ve got a blind spot.
In a famous speech in the 1990s, Charlie Munger summed up the approach to practical wisdom through understanding mental models by saying: “Well, the first rule is that you can’t really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang ’em back. If the facts don’t hang together on a latticework of theory, you don’t have them in a usable form. 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. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You’ve got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.”