mental model Flash cards


Anchoring & adjustment

When making decisions, we rely too heavily—or anchor—on one trait or piece of information.

contrast effect

When scanning new visual information, we are unconsciously drawn to things that stand out against their surroundings.

certainty bias

We crave certainty and more likely to take action if specific information is available.

authority bias

We want to follow the lead and advice of a legitimate authority.



Vision trumps all other senses and is the most direct way to perception.


We constantly assess how interactions either enhance or diminish our standing relative to others and our personal best.


We are engaged by situations in which we see our actions modify subsequent results.


When there is interest, people like to amass units that add to or complete a set.



When sharing the same environment, we’ll strive to attain things that cannot be shared.

Status Quo Bias

We tend not to change an established behavior (unless the incentive to change is compelling).


We are more likely to engage in activities in which meaningful achievements are recognized.

Humor Effect

Humorous items are more easily remembered—and enjoyed!


Limited Access

We naturally desire things that are perceived as exclusive or belonging to a select few.


Information grouped into familiar, manageable units is more easily understood and recalled.

Appropriate Challenges

We delight in challenges, especially ones that strike a balance between overwhelming and boring.

Set Completion

The closer a collection is to being complete, the more we desire collecting all pieces.


Commitment & Consistency

We desire to act in a manner consistent with our stated beliefs and prior actions.


We remember and respond favorably to small, unexpected and playful pleasures.

Limited Choice

We’re more likely to make a choice when there are fewer options.

Variable Reward

“Random” rewards make powerful motivators; they seem scarce and unpredictable (and they’re less likely to conflict with intrinsic motivation).


Serial Position Effect

We have much better recall of the first and last items within a list.

Peak-End Rule

We judge our past experiences almost entirely by their peaks (pleasant or unpleasant) and how they ended.

Value Attribution

We value things when they cost more.


Our behavior is influenced by those around us in new or unfamiliar situations; people are more inclined to follow the lead of those that remind us of ourselves.



We infer value in something that has limited availability or is promoted as being scarce.


All our decisions are filtered through a story—real or imagined—that we believe.


We need small nudges placed on our regular paths to remind and motivate us to take action.

Familiarity Bias

We tend to develop a preference for things or approaches merely because we are familiar with them.


Uniform Connectedness

Elements that are connected by uniform visual properties are perceived as being more related than elements that are not connected.


We feel the need to reciprocate when we receive a gift.


We care more deeply about personal behaviors when they affect how peers or the public perceive us.

Loss Aversion

We hate losing or letting go of what we have (even if more could be had).



Subtle visual or verbal suggestions help us recall specific information, influencing how we respond.

Positive Mimicry

We learn by modeling our behavior after others.


The way in which issues and data are stated can alter our judgement and affect decisions.


People seek opportunities to express their personality, feelings, or ideas.



Things that are close to one another are perceived to be more related than things that are spaced farther apart.

Pattern Recognition

Our brains seek ways to organize and simplify complex information, even when there is no pattern.

Sensory Appeal

We are engaged by and more likely to recall things that appeal to multiple senses.


We seek out situations where we can exert influence or control over something.



We are more likely to take action when complex activities are broken down into smaller tasks.


When teased with a small bit of interesting information, people will want to know more!


To teach something new, start with the simplest form of behavior; reinforce increasingly accurate approximations of the behavior.

Affect Heuristic

Our current emotions influence our judgment and decisions.



it’s easier to recognize things we have previously experienced than it is to recall them from memory.


Conceptual Metaphor

We make sense of a new idea or conceptual domain by likening it to another

Ownership Bias

We more highly value goods or services once we feel like we own them.


Given a choice between action and inaction, a limited time to respond increases the likelihood that people will participate.


Periodic Events

Recurring events create a sustained interest, anticipation and sense of belonging.

Duration Effects

Perception of time is relative.


An approach to problem-solving that starts with imagining worst-case scenarios—and then using those scenarios as the basis for developing solutions.

Map is not the territory

A metaphor illustrating the differences between belief and reality.



Aesthetically pleasing designs are often perceived as being easier to use.