Mental models of physical systems: Examining the relationship between knowing and doing
Rowe, Anna L.
Lane, David M.
Doctor of Philosophy
Although use of the mental model construct has proliferated in recent applied research, the construct lacks an agreed upon method of measurement. Importantly, the validities of the different measurement techniques have not been established. The purpose of this research was to evaluate the validity of several mental model measurement methods, with the criterion being task performance. Additionally, mental models were examined in the context of a real-world, complex problem-solving situation. Four mental model measurement techniques were evaluated: a laddering structured interview, concept relatedness ratings, a diagramming structured interview, and think aloud while troubleshooting. Nineteen U.S. Air Force technicians varying in troubleshooting expertise each completed the mental model measures. In addition, the technicians each worked to troubleshoot a moderately difficult problem. The results indicate that two of the evaluated techniques were each independently predictive of troubleshooting performance: the laddering structured interview and the concept relatedness ratings. Because these measures are predictive of performance, it is recommended that researchers consider using these techniques in work requiring the measurement of mental models. The next step in this line of research involves a characterization of the kinds of information offered by different mental model measures. This research also revealed basic psychological issues regarding the development of expertise. Specifically, the results suggest that expertise may not develop in a monotonic fashion. Changes in knowledge may not be adequately represented as simple monotonic increases in similarity to some ideal knowledge representation. The results also indicated that the provision of a context when measuring mental model knowledge with different methods may produce conflicting results. Finally, the benefits associated with using performance as the criterion when assessing validity are discussed.
Experimental psychology; Industrial psychology