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Mental models are a way of explaining how things work. Throughout our lives, we build up a personal collection of mental models to understand the world around us.

Mental models aren't perfect but developing a rich toolbox of them can be useful in navigating the complexities of life. Learning to intuitively apply the right models in the right situations is something we develop with practice.

This website is a curated collection of models with broad applicability in everyday life. There’s a focus on brief descriptions and simple, real life examples of the models in use.


Weekly Mental Model

Hindsight Bias

The feeling that we could have predicted an event after it occurs (i.e. we "knew it all along").

Description

Hindsight bias is the feeling we get when we perceive an event as being predictable, even though there's little evidence to suggest we could have predicted it. Once the event has occurred, it's easy to work backwards and find explanations. While hindsight bias can result in increased confidence and performance, too much can lead to overconfidence and an inability to learn from experience. For instance, by assuming that we could have done better than others after knowing the results of their actions, we lost an opportunity to understand why those actions were made.

Examples

  • In court, judgement of a defendant can be clouded by hindsight bias. The jury, knowing the outcome of the defendant's actions, might feel as if they could have predicted the outcome.
  • We may feel that people in the past were less intelligent or innovative than those of the present without acknowledging that they did not access to present day information. Related: Historian's fallacy and chronological snobbery.