Mental Models and Change LO29381

Date: 10/24/02

Replying to LO29376 --

'Change in mental models' < > 'Learning'

Some 'mental models' seem to be cast in metal, very slow to change. But, I
do not think, 'change in mental models' is equivalent to learning. But it
is fair to say that learning is sometimes followed by a change of mind or
change of mental models.

 A. Some kind of learning may not change mental models at all: A lot of
everyday learnings seem to operate this way. We learn names, prices,
timings, etc., without having to revise our 'mental models'. Our behaviour
patterns do not change (although our specific behaviour in specific
instances may change).

 B. Some kinds of learning may strengthen mental models: Sometimes, our
experiences make us more convinced of something, i.e., less doubtful of
something. These may be seen as cases where 'mental models' are getting
strengthened. We can relate it to the emergence of personal commitments,
cultural stereotyping, and social cults. I would liken it to Kuhn's
'normal science'.

 C. Some kinds of learning may weaken mental models: This kind of learning
experience is what is called 'unfreezing' in social-psychology. This may
happen by recognising counter-evidences as such and taking them seriously
(i.e., trying to integrate them in the logical structure of terms). This
may also be involved in trying to accommodate deviant actions or uncommon
perspectives (as might happen in accommodating a new political party in a
coalition). It is not clear in what sense a weakened mental model is a
'better thing'. It does allow greater openness, more variety to be
accommodated, etc. Perhaps, it opens doors to new possibilities.

 D. Some kinds of learning may replace mental models altogether:
Revelations, metanoia (learnt this term from the LO list, thanks!),
frame-breaking insights, transformational change in organisations, social
revolutions, ... but also brain washing, indoctrination,
sudden-emergence-to-limelight of a minority group ... hence a
correspondence with Kuhn's 'revolutionary science'. Accumulated evidence
shows that such learning is rarer than it is thought to be. In the best
examples, new frameworks may be adopted at a deliberative or conscious
level, but not really internalised or operationalised. The old frameworks
still remain habitual, embedded, grounded.

 E. Besides, learning may also be talked about without using mentalistic

 (i) Mentalistic concepts refers to states of mind such as 'believing',
'wondering', 'doubting', 'imagining', 'reflecting', etc. Psychologists
have debated the role of such concepts in building helpful accounts of
behaviour. As with any academic debates, it seems still futile to search
for the correct view. But, it seems, using mentalistic concepts makes us
abide by our privileged power of introspection, which involved a leap of
faith, so to speak (that I know when I am wondering just like I know when
I am eating or driving). One alternative is available in the form of
behaviorism not involving mentalistic concepts.

 (ii) Talking about learning at levels other than individuals is also
common in our discussions. We speak of organisational learning, social
learning, learning system, etc. [I know, some of us consider this as a
mere figurative use of language. But of course, it is not clear if they
are already pre-committed to some biological or anthropomorphic notion of
learning, thus precluding a learning-like effect in any other realm.]
Different perspectives on systemic learning are emerging that are beyond
the individual, hence beyond the perview of the mentalistic notions.
However, since they operate beyond the individual, they also lie outside
the ambit of behaviorism, even psychology. This is the domain of
social-psychology or sociology, ecology, or even computer science and such
other areas, that make complex interconnected agents and systems their
domain of study. Here we speak of structure, function, communication
protocol, field, evolution, structural-coupling, autopoiesis,
self-organisation, etc.

Thanks Jason for your trigger statement.

With love,


>>> Reflecting on the comment by:
"Jason Smith/EIG" <>

I tend to think of "mental models" as habitual patterns of thinking or
behaving that are strengthened with use.


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