Mental Models and Change LO29406

From: John Hanna (
Date: 10/28/02

Replying to LO29391 --

Friday, October 25, 2002 07:10, AM de Lange wrote

> Allow me to give a very brief history of the theory of Mental Models. It
> concerns the question "How do we know the external world?"
> For the next twenty years little advancement was made until Kenneth Craik
> (1943) in his "The Nature of Explanation." (Cambridge University Press)
> daringly proposed the concept Mental Model (MM) in the face of hotly
> pursued behaviourism.
> But also in 1976 PN Johnson-Laird as co-auther with Miller entered the
> stage with "Language and Perception". Suddenly the question of cognition
> became hotly pursued. The number of publications increased rapidly as
> cognitive science became air borne. In 1983 Johnson-Laird's "Mental
> Models: Towards a Cognitive Science of Language, Inference, and
> Consciousness"
> Fred, there is an electronic version of an informative article some dozen
> years ago by Johnson-Laird at
> < >
> You may find that your thinking is perhaps not that much different from
> his. Fellow learners may also have a look at
> "Mental Models and Usability"
> < >
> which explores MMs in the field of Human-Computer-Interaction.
> Obviously, there is also the work of Argyris on MMs in organisational
> learning and the work of Senge on MMs in Learning Organisations.

There is another line of research, Ecological Psychology, which seeks the
same understanding about "How do we know the external world?", but which
presents an alternative (and I think more current) explanation: Perception
and Action is direct and primary, thought is not representational, nor
does the brain work like an "information processing" system. I believe it
would reject the idea that "internal" Mental Models exist. Rather, "MM"s
(as documented) are just another form of "external" communications between
actors about something.

Interestingly, none of the key people related to this are mentioned in
your MM references, such as James Gibson, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson,
Michael Turvey, Peter Kugler, Esther Thelen, Scott Kelso, Horst
Hendriks-Jansen, Gerald Edelman, Walter Freeman, and many others.

I suppose the "information processing model of mind" is so engrained and
tacitly assumed, that the assumptions or basis for things like Mental
Models is not often considered or questioned.

John Hanna


"John Hanna" <>

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