Examples of models: maps

December 30, 2011 by Joshua
in Awareness, Blog, Evolutionary Psychology, Nature

[This post is part of a series on The Model — my model for the human emotional system designed for use in leadership, self-awareness, and general purpose professional and personal development — which I find the most effective and valuable foundation for understanding yourself and others and improving your life. If you don’t see a Table of Contents to the left, click here to view the series, where you’ll get more value than reading just this post.]

My series on the Model covered models in general but didn’t give examples. My seminars cover examples, so the next few posts will cover some examples to illustrate some common models we all use. I have two goals: first to help expose how fundamental they are to our perception and understanding of our worlds and second, to start building how you can manage and change them to improve your life.

Recall a model is a simplified representation of something for a purpose. We can’t comprehend everything all at once — the amount of information in the universe is infinite and we don’t have the brain power to process it all — so we evolved to represent some relevant part of our environments.

Some people wish they knew more and try to learn as much as they can to overcome not knowing everything. Infinite information makes that pursuit futile. Much more useful is to use the information you have to improve your life. The Method does that.

The first example of a model is maps. Maps represent something for a purpose.

Three Manhattan mapsThese three maps all simplify Manhattan. Each throws out information to achieve a purpose. Each is more useful for having less information. If you wanted to choose a neighborhood to live in, the left one might serve your purposes best. If you want to get around by subway, the middle one would serve you best.

Note that only Manhattan itself is Manhattan. No representation of it could ever represent it perfectly. Nonetheless, each of these representations is more useful for its purposes. To find a subway route using only Manhattan itself wouldn’t make sense. You use a subway map.

As obvious as that sounds, many people don’t get how much more useful models can be than the things themselves.

They also confuse their mental representation of something with the thing. How many times have you been mad at someone only to learn you misunderstood them or something about the situation? You were mad at your model of them, until evidence forced you to change your model.

In any case, I will return to maps as the archetypal model over and over. People rarely confuse maps with the territory they represent so they make a natural and effective reminder that models are not what they represent.

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3 responses on “Examples of models: maps

  1. Pingback: Examples of models: the Earth from several perspectives | Joshua Spodek

  2. Pingback: Examples of models: beliefs and mental models » Joshua Spodek

  3. Pingback: The Model: summary | Joshua Spodek

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