This paper provides a summary of what the meaning of the term mental model is and the fact that it can mean many things depending on the paper and discipline.
It also cites a nice quote from Don Norman (an HCI expert) in Gentner and Stevens, 1983 - a book that is heinously expensive, ranging from £30 for an ebook to £200 for a physical copy. 😤 Luckily the preface and cited pages seem to be free on Google Books preview (for now, at least). Page 7-9 of Norman’s introduction has several rules of mental models and a definition - may be useful to cite.
Some apologies as I’m typing with a crappy butterfly keyboard that likes to add in extra full stops (aka periods), and also to add in extra “r”s. I’m not intentionally talking like a pirate unless it’s September 19th, and I’m a little frightened to say I did NOT need to google to find out what date this important event was.
Back to the original paper, I think I’m reading here that mental models usually apply to interactive systems, or events. Biology certainly runs over time, but the data models I’m looking at generally don’t (I’m not covering, say, workflows!)
I’ve highlighted this sentence:
“for Johnson-Liard, mental models are working models of situations and events in/of the world, and that through their mental manipulation we are capable of understanding and explaining phenomena and are able to act accordingly to the resulting predictions.”
They also say “First of all, we must emphasise that as is common in science education, these terms are not used in a univocal way; on the contrary, behind their vagueness there is also a diversifications of meanings. Particularly in the case of mental models, this diversification has led us to wonder whether they are not actually ‘mental muddles’.”