50 Types of Mental Models for Better Decision Making

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Poor Charlie's Almanack" by Charles T. Munger. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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What are the major types of mental models? What should be your focus when learning a mental model?

The many types of mental models cut across several disciplines including math, psychology, economics, physics, and more. They include models like Gaussian distribution, reciprocity, autocatalysis, and opportunity cost. Your focus should be on learning the fundamental meaning of these models and not their nitty-gritty details.

Read on to discover more about the major types of mental models.

The Types of Mental Models

Here’s a list of mental models suggested directly by Munger across his speeches in Poor Charlie’s Almanack. It’s not a complete set of mental models you should know, but it’s a good start to build off of. 

Observe a few things about the list:

  • It reaches broadly across disciplines that you wouldn’t normally think of interacting, like economics and physics.
  • Each discipline has specific ideas that have relevance outside the discipline. 

We’ve included links for the different types of mental models under each category as a starting point for research.

The types of mental models include:

Get the Core Ideas, Don’t Sweat the Details

For purposes of general cognition, you don’t need to learn the nitty-gritty technical details of the various types of mental models. You need only build an intuition for the fundamental meaning of the mental model.

For instance, for the engineering concept of “margin of safety,” you don’t need to be able to analyze a bridge and calculate the exact margin of safety to five significant figures. Instead, take away the general idea—that a system should have a degree of buffer before it fails.

50 Types of Mental Models for Better Decision-Making

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Charles T. Munger's "Poor Charlie's Almanack" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Poor Charlie's Almanack summary:

  • A collection of Charlie Munger’s best advice given over 30 years
  • Why you need to know what you’re good at and what you’re bad at to make decisions
  • Descriptions of the 25 psychological biases that distort how you see the world

Joseph Adebisi

Joseph has had a lifelong obsession with reading and acquiring new knowledge. He reads and writes for a living, and reads some more when he is supposedly taking a break from work. The first literature he read as a kid were Shakespeare's plays. Not surprisingly, he barely understood any of it. His favorite fiction authors are Tom Clancy, Ted Bell, and John Grisham. His preferred non-fiction genres are history, philosophy, business & economics, and instructional guides.

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