Organized Thinking: Managing Knowledge Complexity in Our Mind


Mental models

A mental model is an explanation of someone’s thought process about how something works in the real world.
Anything is easy if one can assimilate it to one’s collection of models.
How does one effectively go about constructing mental models?

  • Imagination

Imagination increases the capacity of our working memory. Once you learn to ‘imagine’, your working memory is no longer limited to “The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two” [1].

Whereas linguistic thinking is linear, imagination makes non-linear (“whole” as opposed to thinking only about parts) thinking possible.

    • Thinking in 3D
    • Thinking in 4D (Space + Time)
  • Systems Thinking

Systems thinking is to see the interconnected whole.

Systems thinking facilitates and systemizes “whole” thinking.

  • System Dynamics

“System dynamics (SD) is an approach to understanding the nonlinear behavior of complex systems over time using stocks, flows, internal feedback loops, table functions and time delays” according to Wikipedia. For the purpose of this article we will consider: System dynamics as systems thinking over time.

  • Multilevel thinking

Multilevel thinking [2] is to see and consider all levels of abstraction (See Computational thinking) concerning a subject at once.

Computational Thinking

Computational thinking is used for, among other purposes, (overall / large scale) organization of knowledge.

  • Abstraction (Concepts; Naming)

“Abstraction is the process of removing physical, spatial, or temporal details or attributes in the study of objects or systems to focus attention on details of greater importance” according to Wikipedia.
Abstraction in Computer Science is related to naming.

  • Levels of abstraction
  • Knowledge Ontology

Knowledge ontology is a set of concepts and categories in a subject area or domain that shows their properties and the hierarchical relations between them.
Knowledge ontology helps us in structuring knowledge.

Levels of abstraction helps us consider large parts of knowledge at once.  Ontology helps us see all knowledge at once.

It is possible to organize all human knowledge in a single knowledge ontology.

Human knowledge

↓      ↓        ↓         ↓

←←  ←←        → →          →→

↓       ↓                   ↓              ↓

Laws of Physics       Laws of Chemistry    ……..

Scientific Thinking

  • Generalization

Science aims to explain everything we see around us at different levels of abstractions in terms of a set of general laws. As more and more areas of the world we live in and the universe become explicable by mathematical laws, the scope of generalization expands. Generalizations greatly simplify our knowledge of the world.

  • Open mind

Mathematical Thinking

  • Using Mathematics / Mathematical models
  • Mathematical Problem Solving
    • Multilevel problem solving

Mathematical problem solving is one type of knowledge inference. Both “to prove” and “to find” can be seen as inference.


Cognitive Skills

Memory techniques

  • Association
  • Chunking
  • Knowledge organization
  • Learning by Heart


Other cognitive techniques:

  • Belief / Realization: Understanding by heart

Metacognition: Thinking about thinking
Reflective thinking: Thinking about self and thinking

Other thinking techniques:

  • Big picture thinking



  1. The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two Some Limits on Our Capacity for Processing Information
  2. On Multi-Level Thinking and Scientific Understanding

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