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A mental model is an explanation in someone's thought process for how something works in the real world. It is a kind of internal symbol or representation of external reality, hypothesised to play a major part in cognition. The idea is believed to have been originated by Kenneth Craik in his 1943 book The Nature of Explanation. After the early death of Craik in a bicycle accident, the idea was not elaborated on until much later. Before Craik, Georges-Henri Luquet had already developed this idea to some extent: in his seminal book Le dessin enfantin (Children's Drawings), published in 1927 by Alcan, Paris, he argued that children obviously construct internal models, a view that influenced, among others, Jean Piaget.
Two books, both titled Mental Models, appeared in 1983 . One was by Philip Johnson-Laird, a psychology professor at Princeton University. The other was a collection of articles edited by Dedre Gentner and Albert Stevens. See Mental Models (Gentner-Stevens book). Since then there has been much discussion and use of the idea in human computer interaction and usability by people such as Donald Norman and by Steve Krug in his book Don't Make Me Think. Walter Kintsch and Teun A. van Dijk, using the term situation model (in their book Strategies of Discourse Comprehension, 1983), showed the relevance of mental models for the production and comprehension of discourse. These are just a couple of examples among many, many others.
Researchers who study mental models
- Ruth Byrne
- Dedre Gentner
- Philip Johnson-Laird
- Stephen J. Payne, Internet Archive version
- Walter Kintsch
- Teun A. van Dijk
- Georges-Henri Luquet: "Children's Drawings", Free Association Books, 2001, ISBN 1853435163 (paperback)
- Gentner,Dedre,& Stevens, A L. (1983) Mental Models Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc., ISBN 089859-242-9.
- Cognitive psychology
- Cognitive map
- Educational psychology
- abstract model
- Neuro-Linguistic Programming
- Knowledge representation
- The Interaction-Design.org Encyclopedia entry on Mental Models and HCI/Interaction Design
- Mental Models and Usability
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