Second-Order Thinking

Mental Models

Consider secondary effects or consequences of a decision or an action, similar with when playing chess where you need to thing two, three or multiple moves ahead to gain an advantage.

This thought process plays a key role especially in areas such business strategy, policy-making and personal life choices.


Business Pricing Strategy
Using basic (first-order) thinking, you might think cutting prices will sell more. But with deeper (second-order) thinking, you understand it could start a price fight with rivals, shrink profits, and make customers think the product is cheap, which could hurt sales over time

Personal Health Decision
You might start an intense exercise routine to quickly improve your fitness and loose weight; However, it can also lead to burnout or injury if not managed properly. A more sustainable approach that gradually increases intensity is more indicated, avoiding potential health setbacks.

Limitations and Misinterpretations

  1. Overestimating Our Ability to Predict the Future: We can be wrong in how we interpret and draw conclusions on potential outcomes
  2. Analysis Paralysis: Taking too long to take action or make a decision because we are going too deep in all possible ways that a change can play out
  3. Confusing it with pessimism: The goal is to have a balanced view on all potential consequences and not to focus solely on the negative outcomes.


  1. What might be second and third-order effects of this action?
  2. What are possible long-term impacts of this decision?
  3. What are the potential unintended consequences?

AI Prompt

Act as an expert critical thinker and evaluate [my decision] using second order thinking. Consider the long-term consequences and weigh the decision's possible positive and negative outcomes.

My decision is: ## insert your decision here ##