Mental model is a psychological term which refers to the mental illustrations that explains a person’s thoughts and behaviours. The concept first appeared in the book ‘the nature of exploration’ by Kenneth craik in 1943. In his book he mentioned that the mind develops mental models or illustrations which serve as reference and explanation and for taking the decision in various events of life. Philip Johnson-laird through his study, the comprehension of discourse has further explained about the construction of these mental models. He explained that people creates mental models as they hear the text. Laird also explained the possibility of construction of more than one mental model when the person is subjected to a more abstract verbal message. The studies on mental model have opened a new perspective in cognitive psychology for analyzing mental process of human beings.
Mental model is the representation of a human mind’s thought process. Everything that a person sees is been represented as models inside their minds. The mental models are considered as an internal scale for a human being for evaluation and for taking decisions. The Internal scales as mentioned by the scientists are ever changing and unstable as a human mind is susceptible to change due to adaptation. Even going through a change a human being must be able to evaluate and understand the consequences and results of change.
Mental model provide grounds for reasoning. The models that are made out of a person’s perception and imagination which can influence reasoning than coming down to a logical conclusion. Out of all the possible assumptions, the mental model represents only the most relevant and true one. The contrary occurs when there is an alternative to reality.
Mental models have been utilized for studying human computer interaction (HCI), where the mental models are being utilized to make sense of the complexities that are around the people using computers. When people use computers, they build mental models in accordance with the interaction with the system. These models are used for interpreting the working of the system. For e.g.- People creates mental models before creating anything. It can be complicated machinery or even a simple apple pie. The creator thus creates a mental model which he refers to while materializing it.
The concept of mental model can be applied to a variety of fields such as psychology, business, technology etc. People utilize these mental models to make sense of the reality. The practical and the theoretical knowledge each gained is applied in these models to further understand and to refer about the world they are living. Inventors comprehend the mental model of the consumers to understand their demands and needs. And in business, People use mental models to do daily purchase more economically.
As mentioned above, people refer to the mental models to make decisions and to reason for making the particular decision. For instance consider a man is going to a jewellery shop for buying a gift for his wife for their anniversary. He will have a particular idea in mind and would have arranged the budget accordingly. But while entering the jewellery shop the person was marveled by the array of designs. Then he selects a particular design which was far beyond his budget but found attractive. He knew his wife would love it. In this situation the person takes decision based on the mental model which is built on understanding and knowledge. He would reason his decision by referring to the experiences and understanding which lay foundation for the model that it would make his wife happier.