Mental models and the 7Es LO29398

From: Terje A. Tonsberg (
Date: 10/28/02

At and group,

I would like to expand on what At was saying about Mental Models (MM) by
looking at this label's usefulness for understanding behavior via the 7Es
(those not interested have thereby been forewarned:)

Liveness: One severe problem with mental models is that they impose a dead
structure on a live organism subject to continuous internal and external
changes to explain behavior. It is a little like studying a corpse to
understand the behavior of a live person. You are not studying the thing

Sureness: What are MMs? It seems some view them as problem solving
strategies, others as beliefs, others as analytical frameworks, others as
errors in logic, others again as scientific theories. In short, when we
mention MMs we are likely to have vastly different understanding of what
the object at hand is. This is not good for useful dialogue, and hampers
wholeness in the scientific community.

Another problem with MMs is that they try to explain peoples behavior (any
act) in terms of unobservables. MMs can only be infered by behavior, so
why not stick to studying the environment itself and the behavior itself?
If somebody fails to learn, all we can do about it is manipulate his
environment in any case, so why bother with imaginary mental models?

As one observer said: "One of the many attributes of sound science is that
investigators recognize that their methodology and conceptual systems may
not yet be ready to tackle certain problems effectively."

Wholeness: The mental model "mental model" ;-) tends to concentrate on
unobservable events inside at the expense of observable environmental
events (before and after behavior) and behaviors, past and present. For

Fruitfulness: Being static, mental models contribute nothing to explain
novel behavior.

Spareness: How do you measure or count a mental model?

Otherness: the mental model theories and what resembles them are so many
that it leads to fragmentation (every Tom, Dick and Harry developing his
own theory.) An enormous amount of theories without an empirical filter.
This is what happens when observation is replaced by imagination.

Openness: Have a behavior to explain? Develop another mental model! What
other way is there?

I think it is safe to say that mental models can do little to improve the
understanding of behavior. So why do people bother with mental model
"explanations."? Well, instead of looking at the mental model approach as
a mental model, lets throw a quick proposition from a functional point of

- using the phrase "mental model" is reinforced by attention,
publishability, social acceptance, grants etc.

Does anybody have a mental model explanation for the use of the word
"mental model" that would be more useful than this functional proposition?



"Terje A. Tonsberg" <>

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