The Model: models in general

August 25, 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.]

Before talking about the Model in particular, let’s talk about models in general, a fundamental and incredibly useful concept in its own right. I’ve covered them before in this blog from several perspectives.

Models are simplified representations of something for a purpose

Models are simplified representations of something for a purpose.

Every word in that description counts.

Simplified means they remove information. Our limited senses can’t perceive nor can our limited minds contain or understand the infinite complexity of the world. So we deal with simplifications only. For one example, other people are as complex as ourselves, yet we model them with a handful of adjectives — “Oh Jim? He’s a great guy. Gets the job done and always makes you laugh” or “Jane is weird. I don’t understand her” — as if a few words could capture the richness of whole person. Yet we do, as do people with us, and life goes on just fine.

Life doesn’t require us to know everything or even that much.

Many people feel sorry that they can’t avoid simplifying things. You’ll come to appreciate the incredible valuable in not needing all that information when you know how to use them. As we’ll see, the flexibility in modeling creates our greatest path to perceiving the world as we want and living the lifestyles we want. No one who ever lived a great life had greater ability to perceive or process information and they did great.

Another major point about simplifications is that they introduce biases by what we throw out and what we retain. Someone with different information than you might think of your “great guy” Jim as a jerk and “weird” Jane as a great singer.

That models represent something means that they are not the thing itself. A helpful phrase to remember that representations are not the things they represent is “the map is not the territory.” People confuse the two readily, but you benefit yourself to distinguish them. You have more control over your representation than the thing it represents, a major benefit in life.

How do we evaluate models?

A model’s value comes from how well it serves its purpose. For example, maps are models. The purpose of a road map is to show roads and help navigate trips by road. A subway map helps you find subway routes. Neither is good or bad objectively. Their value derives only from how well they serve their purposes.

I cannot state this point enough: models’ value comes not from accuracy, but how well they serve their function. A road map that shows too much detail, like every tree along I-95, serves its purpose less, and therefore is less valuable. Subway maps leaving out the whole surface make them *more* valuable, not less.

Most people find evaluating models based only on their functions difficult.

The Model on the human emotional system in the next few posts has a function — to enable to you to understand your emotions and emotional system. This purpose will help you understand your values and bring meaning to your life. It does not have a purpose to describe your emotions or emotional system perfectly.

A sub-purpose is ease of communication. It throws out information for this purpose. With experience, you’ll find you’ll add more information and make a model that works better for you.

Tomorrow: motivation for our Model

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9 responses on “The Model: models in general

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