The Great Mental Models (two volume series)

By Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien

Recommended on: 28th May 2020

The Great Mental Models Volume 1: General Thinking Concepts and Volume 2: Physics, Chemistry and Biology by Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien. There is intriguing evidence from neuroscience that our brains “reuse” patterns based on models to help us think creatively about ideas we are grappling with. Shane Parrish and Rhiannon Beaubien’s delightfully interesting books provide many examples of how models can be used to help us think in fresh ways. For example, we know that different systems, like a small pot of hot water nestled inside a larger pot of cold water will tend towards reaching a thermal equilibrium.  As Mental Models Volume 2 notes: “What if we consider the equilibrium of two systems not between two containers of different temperature water, but two societies with different values?” What a neat way of thinking about societal differences!

As Parris and Beaubien note: “You’ve got to have 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.” Mental Models describes some of the best of these models. These are also good books for audio listening (Volume 1, Volume 2). (Two free audio books may be possible through this link.)

We’re also fans of Parrish’s Farnam Street Blog, Podcast, and Learning Community. Check them out!