the building blocks of making

better decisions


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


We tend to feel obligated to repay positive actions towards us (e.g. favors, gifts) even if they are unwanted.


Reciprocity refers to a social norm in which we feel a sense of obligation when receiving positive actions towards us. For instance, receiving a favor or gift can trigger feelings of indebtedness to repay the act in someway. While reciprocity allows one to build relationships and exchanges, it can be exploited to gain someone's compliance to a request. This is because feelings of obligation can be felt even when receiving a positive action we do not want.


  • Before attempting to sell something, a salesperson may give you a small gift (e.g. a pen or a free sample). Even if this gift is unwanted, receiving it can still trigger a need to repay the gift, usually in the form of purchasing whatever is being sold.

  • A common compliance technique is to start by making a large request that's likely to be rejected followed by a second, smaller request. The second request, which is the intended request, is more likely to be accepted as it's seen as a favor.