Tag Archives: mental models

For most of us, life consists of constant moments of analysis, definition, and reevaluation. Basically, we’re always trying to figure ourselves out. A strong sense of self can, in certain contexts, provide great clarity and comfort. Other times, however, we place ourselves in boxes that restrict our options and limit our successes. One of the great modern insights into achievement and success comes from psychologist Carol Dweck, who introduced the concept of mindset. Mindsets are essentially the beliefs we hold about ourselves and our abilities: — A fixed mindset believes that abilities are innate and static. — A growth mindset believes that abilities are able to be improved. Essentially, as the saying goes, if you think you can or think you can’t, you’re probably right. Since achievement depends so directly on mindset, we should be careful to cultivate a growth mindset in ourselves and others. Doing so, however, requires more…

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To maximize learning, experts are encouraging teachers and students to shift from a fixed mindset, based on a student’s innate talents and strengths, to a growth mindset, focused on strategies to make new brain connections through input from others and learning from mistakes. Carolyn Woo of Purdue University suggests that “IQ and college entrance tests lean toward a fixed mindset, as they employ a snapshot in time as indicators of future potential”. It does not follow, however, that a student’s score must merely be a summary of his fixed assets, therefore unchangeable. Effort is a key to change, but the tests are designed to deny admission to better scores through mere practice. Let’s consider how Carol Dweck’s elements of a growth mindset will unlock better scores. In her book Mindset: the New Psychology of Success, Dweck asserts that seeking help from others, trying new strategies, and capitalizing on setbacks foster…

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Sometimes–or maybe often–learning doesn’t lead to knowing. In some instances, we learn in a shallow sense, unable to connect new ideas with previous ones and thus likely to lose the lesson entirely. Other times, we learn the words and can even regurgitate them, undigested as it were, but hae no insight into what those words even mean. So, clearly, a vast chasm separates learning and really learning, which impacts anyone who actually needs to understand and recall what he or she learns. Is there a simple way to really learn what we need? Well, if you’re looking for someone to offer a simple answer to a complex question, ask a physicist. One particular physicist, Nobel Prize winner Richard Feynman, modeled a method of inquiry and exploration that isolates easy steps to learning even difficult concepts. What is now called the Feynman Technique sounds quite elementary on its face: 1. CHOOSE…

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It was once thought that growing up in a bilingual home was a detriment to a baby’s cognitive development. Scientists believed that the child would become confused or develop schizophrenia or a split personality. Today we know that this couldn’t be further from the truth. Speaking another language goes far beyond just learning a second set of words, phrases, and metaphors. Learning a second language can actually increase the size of the hippocampus–the area of the brain responsible for creating, storing, and retrieving memories and information–while also increasing the amount of neural pathways connecting other parts of the brain. Here are a few more cognitive benefits to learning another language: Multilingual people tend to score better on standardized tests. They are better at remembering lists and sequences. They are more perceptive to their surroundings. They are better able to focus on important information while sifting out unimportant or misleading information.…

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Education, or at least learning, must be more than the memorization of facts and routines. Learning is a process of developing ways of looking at the world, frameworks of reasoning, representation, and calculation that we can apply to different situations. Basically, learning is about developing mental models.   A mental model describes a way to think about something. As a result, we should never try to apply a single model to every situation. Why do we need more than one? The investor Charlie Munger, who has mastered many complex systems to massive profit in his day, has said much about mental models: “… 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…

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Intelligence just ain’t what it used to be. For much of human history, knowledge signified smarts. Those that remembered facts, recounted history, and memorized big vocabulary words presented as the formidable intellects in their towns, villages, or duchies. Simply knowing things is what made us smart. But a funny thing happened on the way to the 21st century: a mere mastery of facts stopped being sufficient evidence of real intelligence. Knowledge remains necessary, certainly, but far from sufficient. Why isn’t remembering facts enough to be considered very smart? Albert Einstein, that immortal avatar of genius, described the distinction when asked to recall a simple fact, in this case the speed of sound: “[I do not] carry such information in my mind since it is readily available in books. …The value of a college education is not the learning of many facts but the training of the mind to think.” True…

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