Mental Models

Epistemic status: this is obvious

sleep training

We’re sleep training our kid, ok. For the non-parents, this means “teaching him to fall asleep without us holding him or feeding him or something.” There are lots of ways to do this; here are a few:

Of course, people have Opinions. People in the more-woo corners of my life tend to think these are all bad. My normier friends usually think they’re all great, or maybe “cry it out” is a little harsh but the others are good, or something.

Both viewpoints make sense, based on your mental model of what’s going on here! If your model is: “creating a traumatic experience in which the baby learns he will not get help”, then of course these sound terrible! If your model is more like “teaching a difficult thing”, they sound fine. (one friend took a class where they compared sleep training to teaching your kid not to stick his finger in a light socket. Kid will cry when you pull him away! But it’s still obviously the right, and kind, thing to do.)

but what’s right

I don’t know, but I think most of the evidence shows that whatever you do is fine, e.g. this or this). So this is maybe a bad example for the general point, which is: having the right mental model, for anything you’re doing, is really important!


because we can’t actually reason about big complex systems, and everything above 7 +/- 2 is “big”. (a child’s development is certainly “big”.) We can’t even intuit about big complex systems. Usually all we can hope to do is reduce decisions to other cases where we have already decided what the “right” thing is. (“this is like teaching your kid not to stick his finger in a socket. I know what I should do there!")

I don’t have much more to say about this. It feels pretty mundane, like something that’d be addressed in cognitive psychology 101, but I don’t remember it. In my defense, I’m dealing with “the kid was screaming for a long time last night” brain here.

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