Introducing the Mental Model Matrix

We share our findings from a recent project about understanding mental models.

Gary Klein, our colleague Ron Besuijen, and I recently summarized our insights from a project sponsored by the Center for Operator Performance. The goal of the project was to understand Petrochemical panel operators’ mental models about the complex systems they work with. Below is an excerpt from the post, published on Gary’s blog on the Psychology Today website.

Our original definition of a mental model as someone’s understanding of how something works was challenged by findings from a field study we conducted with eight panel operators. Our revised definition of a mental model includes the following components:

  • How the system works
  • How the system fails
  • Workarounds
  • Confusions

The following diagram illustrates the four components of a mental model:

Joseph Borders
The Mental Model Quadrants

We are excited to continue our work on understanding mental models.