What are mental models?
Without realizing whenever we notice something, whenever we think, we are always doing it within a confined box.
A box that is created by our experiences, by what we have learned and that is being shaped as we live and this box or boxes are what we call mental models. They are ways in which we try to describe the world.
Mental models work mostly at the subconscious level and yet they are the reason we consider something as important or not when we want to solve a problem, they shape how we react to situations.
They are how we infer causality, match patterns, and draw analogies. They are how we think and reason.
A mental model is a representation of how something works. We use models to simplify the complex into understandable and organizable bites.
We then use these models every day to think, decide, and understand our world.
Why are they important?
These models are in part what shapes the biases we might have and as such while they help in simplifying situations so that we can cope with our day to day lives. They nonetheless are just models and as such can introduce errors by not taking into account all the information we should.
This is one of the reasons why having many different mental models, or at least a few different ones can help enormously in finding solutions to problems because they each one of them gives you a new lens with which to look at the world that surrounds us.
I believe that the reason multidisciplinarity is getting such a huge interest these last years is that, at its root, it is just a way to look at problems in different ways. It is just a way to train different ways of thinking and with it get a bigger toolbox to deal with problems.
In my case, I started in the field of biotechnology.
There, they teach you something that is in the middle of biology, where you have to learn how to identify the most important things in a situation and how to deal with chaos and randomness.
And engineering where you have to deconstruct situations into processes and study how to link the different processes you know in order to create the outcome you want.
Later I worked in biophysics where once again I had to deal with chaos due to the high amount of information and at the same time, I had to deconstruct everything to try to find the core principles, the reasons that moved what was happening in one direction or another.
Being able to accurately describe the full scope of a situation is the first step to understanding it.