Learnings Mental Models

Navigating the Illusion of Mediocrity: Understanding Sturgeon’s Law in Decision-Making


In the realm of decision-making, we often encounter a mental model known as Sturgeon’s Law. Coined by science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon, this law states that “90% of everything is crap.” While initially applied to the realm of creative works, Sturgeon’s Law has broader implications and relevance in our decision-making processes. This mental model is anchored in human psychology, illuminating our tendency to encounter mediocrity and low-quality options in various aspects of life. In this blog post, we will explore Sturgeon’s Law, its significance in decision-making, its prevalence in our daily lives, provide real-world examples, examine the biases that contribute to it, offer practical strategies for identification and avoidance, and emphasize the value of awareness to overcome this mental trap.

The Relevance of Sturgeon’s Law in Decision-Making

Sturgeon’s Law holds immense relevance in decision-making processes as it highlights the existence of a large volume of low-quality options, regardless of the domain. Whether we are making personal life decisions, evaluating business scenarios, or engaging in public policy-making, understanding this concept helps us navigate through the illusion of mediocrity and make choices that align with our best interests.

Anchored in Human Psychology

The prevalence of Sturgeon’s Law in our lives can be attributed to psychological phenomena such as cognitive biases and heuristics. Our brains often rely on mental shortcuts to process information efficiently, leading to the availability bias, where easily accessible or prominent examples dominate our perceptions. This bias can lead us to generalize and perceive a majority of options as low quality, aligning with Sturgeon’s Law.

Real-World Examples

Personal Life Decisions:
Consider a person looking to purchase a new smartphone. Due to the availability bias, they may assume that the majority of options in the market are subpar or filled with unnecessary features. As a result, they settle for a mediocre phone, failing to explore the smaller percentage of high-quality options that align with their needs and preferences.

Business Scenarios:
In the business world, Sturgeon’s Law manifests when leaders or decision-makers dismiss innovative ideas or potential partnerships due to a belief that most proposals or collaborations are likely to be of poor quality. This mentality can hinder growth and prevent the discovery of valuable opportunities.

Public Policy-Making:
Sturgeon’s Law can influence public policy-making when policymakers underestimate the potential impact of certain initiatives, assuming that a significant majority of proposals will be ineffective or flawed. This mindset may stifle progress and limit the exploration of innovative solutions to societal challenges.

Mental Biases and Psychological Underpinnings

Sturgeon’s Law is intertwined with cognitive biases such as the availability bias and the negativity bias. The availability bias leads us to overestimate the prevalence of low-quality options based on the ease with which they come to mind. The negativity bias further amplifies this effect by making negative information and experiences more salient and memorable.

Other psychological factors, such as the fear of missing out (FOMO) and the need for social conformity, can contribute to the perpetuation of Sturgeon’s Law. People may stick to mediocre options to avoid the risk of missing out on what others consider “popular” or conforming to societal norms.

Identifying and Overcoming Sturgeon’s Law

Question Assumptions:
Be mindful of the assumptions and generalizations you make about the quality of options available. Challenge the notion that the majority is necessarily mediocre and explore the possibility of exceptional choices.

Seek Diverse Perspectives:
Engage in active research and seek out diverse opinions and sources. By exposing yourself to different viewpoints and exploring a range of options, you can counteract the biases that reinforce Sturgeon’s Law.

Set Clear Criteria:
Define clear criteria and standards for evaluating options. By establishing specific parameters, you can make more objective assessments, focusing on quality rather than being influenced by preconceived notions.

Conduct Due Diligence:
Invest time and effort in research and evaluation. Seek reliable information, read reviews, and consider expert opinions to make informed decisions. This approach allows you to uncover hidden gems that may defy Sturgeon’s Law.


Sturgeon’s Law reminds us of the prevalence of mediocrity in our decision-making landscape. By understanding the psychological biases that contribute to this phenomenon, we can make more discerning choices. Embracing diversity, challenging assumptions, setting clear criteria, and conducting thorough research are powerful strategies to avoid falling into the trap of Sturgeon’s Law. By cultivating awareness and actively seeking high-quality options, we can navigate through the sea of mediocrity and make decisions that align with our best interests and aspirations.


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