"The Intersection of Mental Models for Learning and Instagram's Interest Graph"



Sep 07, 20234 min read


"The Intersection of Mental Models for Learning and Instagram's Interest Graph"


Learning is a lifelong process that involves choosing a topic and delving deep into its intricacies. To enhance our learning abilities, we can adopt various mental models that help us understand our limitations, think critically, and explore new concepts. In a similar vein, Instagram's interest graph offers a unique way to engage with content and discover new interests. By examining the commonalities between these mental models and Instagram's approach, we can uncover actionable advice for both learning and utilizing the platform effectively.

1. Circle of Competence:

The circle of competence, popularized by Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger, emphasizes the importance of understanding our limitations. This mental model reminds us that our perceived level of competence may exceed our actual level of knowledge. By defining our areas of expertise, we can avoid making ill-informed decisions. Similarly, Instagram's interest graph relies on users actively engaging with content within their areas of interest. By recognizing our limitations and focusing on what we know, we can curate a more personalized and meaningful experience on the platform.

2. Thought Experiment:

Thought experiments serve as a powerful tool for expanding our understanding of complex concepts. These experiments encourage us to think critically and explore different perspectives. By delving deeper into a particular field, we strengthen our knowledge and uncover areas that require further exploration. Instagram's interest graph, too, encourages users to explore various interests by presenting tailored content based on their preferences. By embracing the mindset of a constant learner, we can leverage the interest graph to discover new and exciting subjects.

3. Occam's Razor:

Occam's razor suggests that when faced with multiple explanations for a phenomenon, the simplest explanation is usually the most accurate. This mental model prompts us to seek simplicity amidst complexity. In the context of learning, it encourages us to identify the core principles and concepts that underpin a subject. Similarly, Instagram's interest graph aims to provide users with relevant and personalized content by simplifying their interests into actionable recommendations. By applying Occam's razor to our learning process and utilizing the interest graph's curated content, we can streamline our exploration and focus on the essentials.

4. Availability Heuristic:

The availability heuristic highlights our tendency to base decisions and conclusions on the most recent information we have encountered. This mental model poses a challenge to effective learning, as it may limit our exposure to diverse perspectives and ideas. To overcome this bias, we must actively seek out alternative sources of information and go beyond the readily available content. Instagram's interest graph can be a valuable tool in this endeavor, as it presents users with content beyond the mainstream media, fostering a more comprehensive understanding of their chosen interests.

5. Hindsight Bias:

The hindsight bias skews our perception of past events, making them appear more predictable than they actually were. This cognitive bias can hinder our motivation to learn and explore new subjects, as we may believe that our predictions are infallible. By understanding the hindsight bias, we can adopt a fresh perspective and approach learning with humility and curiosity. Instagram's interest graph, with its focus on presenting users with new and engaging content, complements this mindset by constantly introducing novel ideas and perspectives.

6. Common Knowledge:

While common knowledge is useful, it can only take us so far in our learning journey. To stand out and become truly knowledgeable in our chosen field, we must go beyond the commonly known facts and seek additional information. Instagram's interest graph, with its ability to delve deeper into specific interests, allows users to expand their knowledge beyond what is widely known. By actively seeking out unique and rare knowledge, we can become more desirable and valuable in our areas of expertise.

7. Feynman Learning Technique:

The Feynman learning technique, named after physicist Richard Feynman, offers a practical approach to learning complex subjects. This technique involves pretending to teach a concept to a child, identifying gaps in understanding, organizing and simplifying information, and transmitting the knowledge effectively. By implementing this technique, we can accelerate our learning process and enhance our retention of information. Similarly, Instagram's interest graph can serve as a platform for users to share their knowledge and insights, fostering a collaborative learning environment.

Actionable Advice:

  • 1. Define your circle of competence: Take the time to identify your areas of expertise and focus on learning within those boundaries. By recognizing your limitations, you can avoid making uninformed decisions and make the most of your learning efforts.
  • 2. Embrace thought experiments: Engage in deep thinking and explore complex concepts through thought experiments. This will help you gain a deeper understanding of the subjects you are studying and uncover new avenues for exploration.
  • 3. Seek diverse perspectives: Challenge the availability heuristic by actively seeking out alternative sources of information. Use Instagram's interest graph to discover content that goes beyond mainstream media and exposes you to diverse viewpoints.


Incorporating these mental models for learning into our educational pursuits can greatly enhance our understanding and retention of knowledge. Similarly, leveraging Instagram's interest graph can provide us with a personalized and engaging learning experience. By embracing the circle of competence, thought experiments, Occam's razor, and other mental models, we can navigate the vast sea of information effectively and continuously expand our intellectual horizons.

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