chapter  14
Models Are Stupid, and We Need More of Them
ByPaul E. Smaldino
Pages 21

Stupid models are extremely useful. They are useful because humans are boundedly rational and because language is imprecise. Social psychology, and the social and behavioral sciences more generally, are replete with similar cases. This is the limitation of verbal models. The danger with most verbal models is that there are many ways to specify the parts and relationships of a system that are consistent with such a model. Scientific inquiry stalls when data is used to simply support rather than refine a verbal model. Formal models are explicit in the assumptions they make about how the parts of a system work and interact, and moreover are explicit in the aspects of reality they omit. Newton's theory of Universal Gravitation rested on a model that, to naïve eyes can easily appear quite stupid. This has the potential disadvantage of making formal models appear stupid. And of course, they are stupid, because of limited beings and stupid models are the best.