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Sorta Random Sunday: Where Do You Fit in the Mental Model Pyramid?

I’m reading Think Again by Adam Grant. It’s all about the importance of rethinking in our lives. Basically, mental flexibility is an important component of a successful and happy life. But we don’t often exercise that mental muscle. Instead, we fall into common biases and cognitive traps. It’s all really interesting. In any regard, the aspect of the book I want to talk about here is the mental model pyramid that he shares.

What is the mental model pyramid?

No sense beating around the bush. Here is the mental model pyramid as depicted in the book:

mental model pyramid

Let’s work our way up the pyramid. I encourage you to think about where you live in here…

Cult leader

This is obviously the lowest rung. Pretty much everyone should be able to recognize that they are fallible. They may not like it. And they may not embrace it as a rule of life – a strategy that helps us rethink and improve our mental flexibility by the way. But we do have at least some sense that we are not always right.

Unless someone has some personality disorder or some other pathology.

Except Adam’s wife. And Selenid. And any other spouse or partner reading this. You actually are right 😂.


The political archetype arises when we try to please a large group of people. We fall into the trap of pandering to the lowest common denominator. And then, the more people we accrue on our side, the more power we perceive we have. So the more important it becomes to keep that power.

As a result, we start caring less about whether our thinking is acquire and more about how many people we continue to rally to our cause or mantra.

As we continue to experience in the US today, that is dangerous.


In this description, it might seem like the preacher archetype is kind of like the cult leader one. I promise that is not intentional or any sort of hidden statement.

But in the context of rethinking, the preacher is just completely convinced that their knowledge, opinion, or hot take on some topic is universally correct. And they want to make sure others recognize and believe that to.

Preachers are more susceptible therefore to fall victim to confirmation bias, only accepting evidence that supports their beliefs, and to live an echo chamber, surrounded by others who think similarly.


Next on the list is the prosecutor. She lives on the same pyramidal height as the preacher because both acknowledge that fallibility exists. But whereas the preacher accepts fallibility but just not in whatever belief they hold and cannot give up, the prosecutor sees fallibility in others.

Rather than focusing on what they believe on some topic, they poke holes in other competing beliefs or the critiques of their closely held belief.

“If someone else is wrong, then I must be right.” This seems to be the prevailing thinking.


Throughout his book, Adam Grant encourages us all to approach life by thinking like a scientist.

This means that we take something – a belief or whatever – and view it like a theory. But then we seek a hypotheses and test these hypotheses against our theory. With that data, we refine, change, affirm, or abandon our theory.

Now, remember, this is an archetype. There are plenty of actual real life scientists who think like a politician. And plenty of real life prosecutors who think like a scientist.

This is not about professions but rather an anthropomorphized description of how we think.

But it’s not so cut and dry

While it’s easy to see these distinctions as permanent ways of thinking, that’s not how it is in reality.

In reality, we all jump around the different ares of the mental model pyramid. Except for cult leader. But all of the other areas, we live in from time to time.

There are some beliefs I hold in which I think like a prosecutor. And others where I think like a preacher or scientist. These beliefs could be in the professional, personal, financial areas, or any other area of my life.

And if you are being honest, I bet you do the same thing. And that’s ok. That’s being human.

It’s also the first step to becoming better at rethinking…

…at thinking like scientist in life. Once we recognize these tendencies in ourselves, we can reorient our thinking.

This is a muscle that we need to exercise for it to work. It takes practice. And take it from me, it’s not easy. Already today, I’ve recognized a few times where I fell into preacher mode.

But it’s worth it. I encourage you to give it a try!

And here are some other cognitive biases and fallacies for you to explore!

What do you think? Where do you fall in the mental model pyramid more often than not? Is thinking like a scientist worth it? Let me know what you think in the comments below!

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    Jordan Frey MD, a plastic surgeon in Buffalo, NY, is one of the fastest-growing physician finance bloggers in the world. See how he went from financially clueless to increasing his net worth by $1M in 1 year and how you can do the same! Feel free to send Jordan a message at [email protected].

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