Mental Models and Change LO29399

From: AM de Lange (
Date: 10/28/02

Replying to LO29389 --

Dear Organlearners,

Lee Mccartney < > writes:

>We all have behaviors and views of the world that are
>learned throughout our life. This learnt behavior, where
>a vast majority sits in our subconscious, could be described
>as an internal motor that drives our decision making,
>opinions and assumptions. "This is know as our Mental Model"

Greetings dear Lee,

You have you used the word "subconscious" which made me think twice. Since
English is not my mother tongue, i thought that the word subconscious
means "not to be aware of". If it is the case that we are not aware of our
Mental Models (MMs), how can we use them in our conscious thinking?

But just to make sure of its meaning, i looked it up in a dictionary. It
actually means to be dimly conscious or not clearly discerned by the
intellect. Using such a "not clearly discerned tool" when the desire is to
have clear intellectual outcomes like decisions and conclusions seems to
be somewhat silly for me. Silly or not, how did these MMs become not
clearly discerned in the first place?

>The systemic problem lies in the fact that "as Senge puts it"
>our Mental Models are often way out of sync with reality.
>It becomes a problem when we wrongly suspect a boss of
>not caring about our ideas or in our family lives when we
>incorrectly believe our children are out participating in
>illegal substances.
>If we get bogged down in the analysis of defining Mental
>Models we forget to see the big picture and the true meaning.

It seems to me that it is with MMs just as it is with rote learning.
Pupils and students memorise "parcels" of information. Then during exams
they have to regurgitate what they have memorised. Some have a very good
memory and get full marks. Some have a bad memory and get few marks. The
typical distribution of marks is a bell shaped curve.

But ask these learners to solve a novel problem in which a "parcel" of
information has to be used and the bell curve falls flat with a large
spike rising at its beginning. Even those who remember the information
well have no clear understanding what it means. That is why in chemistry
tests and exams which i had given, i never even once asked for one
sentence of information. They contained complex problems. Each complex
problem consisted of simple problems linked together. Thus the learners
had to join the "parcels" of information into one whole in order to solve
the complex problem. They hated it, but this made chemistry clear for

Perhaps it is the same with MMs. To bring them into "sync with reality",
they have to become linked together with authentic knowledge serving as
the backbone.

With care and best wishes


At de Lange <> Snailmail: A M de Lange Gold Fields Computer Centre Faculty of Science - University of Pretoria Pretoria 0001 - Rep of South Africa

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