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Two Mental Models To Help You Make Better Decisions

Two Mental Models To Help You Make Better Decisions

Every day we have to make many decisions.

Around 35,000 to be precise.

Most of them are done automatically without the second thought or additional analysis. We turn on autopilot mode whenever we can. After all, if we were to spend a significant amount of time on every single decision, our days would have to be much longer.

But, some decisions can’t be made on full autopilot.

Sometimes we need to pause and take a second to analyze what’s going on. In these situations, time spent on thinking is worth the sacrifice for a better outcome.

So now the question is how to go about these decisions.

Well, in general, it’s hard to give one definite answer.

Each decision is different, has different factors that will influence it, and has different outcomes based on these factors and your choices and sub-choices.

At the same time, we may actually want to use some mental models that would guide as in the right direction which is the better decision.

The first principle is Ockham’s Razor.

Ockham’s Razor is a problem-solving (decision-making) principle which states that "entities should not be multiplied without necessity."

In other words, you should always prefer simplicity when you’re challenged with a problem that has several possible solutions (explanation) that are equally (or similarly) enticing.

In such a situation you should choose the simplest one.


That’s because the simplest explanation will be based on the fewest assumptions. More assumptions mean more conditions than an explanation has to meet in order to be true.

Ockham’s Razor: Low-complexity systems = the simplest solutions (explanations) with the fewest assumptions

The second Principle is Hickam’s Dictum.

Hickam’s Dictum is the opposite of what we’ve just learned about Ockham’s Razor.

That’s because Hickam’s Dictum takes the problem-solving principle into the field of medicine. Here we’re welcomed with complex systems that may have several solutions.

For example, a patient may have many diseases and therefore assessing the cause of his current state can’t be based on the one-factor analysis.

Hickam’s Dictum: Complex system = should assume a single cause for multiple symptoms

35,000 is a lot and no human can make it through the day without putting a majority of these decisions on our subconscious autopilot.

Yet, for decisions that matter (but could be made faster) refer to these two mental models as guidelines on how to find the right solution.