The Belief Pyramid

In his book, Liminal Thinking, Dave Gray highlights the belief pyramid. It is a short book and a quick read. I recommend it.

He describes how we construct models of the world around us (reality) in our beliefs. He says that reality is more than one person can fully experience, so one person cannot understand it all.

Then he talks about how neuroscientists estimate our perception rate at about 11 mbps. So our experience of reality is limited by the range of our experience and what we pay attention too.

The neuroscientists estimate our conscious attention at only 40 bps, way less than our total perception. He draws this as a thin sliver in the drawing.

Based on the things we notice we form theories about reality from which we make judgments.

This Pyramid of Belief reduces reality from infinite complexity to a small set of theories, which form the foundations on which you (and everyone else) construct our beliefs.

— Dave Gray
Figure 1. Dave Gray’s Belief Pyramid

So he says we form our beliefs as a model to navigate the world or reality. So what seems "obvious" to you may not be to me.

As individuals, our experiences in reality vary, and what each of us pays attention to is like looking at the world through a paper towel tube.

If we form our beliefs from this small perspective of reality, is it any wonder that we hold such different beliefs or mental models of the world from others?

Dave Gray’s book helps show why many heads are better than one in large scale endeavors.

To me, this belief pyramid is a good explanation of why diversity is so important. It’s about inviting people who have different experiences and who focused on different things to share their consequent theories of reality and beliefs so we have a broader view of reality that our limited attention and experiences have allowed.

This model makes it less personal and more structural. Our limits are not a weakness of just me. We are all limited by attention bandwidth and experiences limited by about a century of living on Earth.

Dave Gray’s model helps see how there are so many opinions and so much difference in where we think we should collectively go as a species.