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Stefan Berreth <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Stefan Berreth <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 12 Jun 1999 17:39:54 +0200
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>Stefan Berreth wrote:
>>> A mental model is something that carries a conceptual understanding of
>things, events their relations. <<
>Let's get to the essence:
>* A model is a representation of something.
>* A mental model is a model in people's mind.

These two comments reveal you misconception: A model is not a
representation! But it is very true that a model is in people's mind.

A model however might be represented in various ways and it has to be
represented one way or the other in order to get communicated between
humans. The representaion then is intended to help developing a
corrosponding mental model on the other side of the communication chain but
the model itself stays where it is: in the human mind.

>>> As long as one can say "I understand this" one has a mental model of it.
>Don't forget that a mental model can include unexplainable events.
>Therefore, you don't have to understand something in order to have a mental
>model of it.

Well, it very much depends on what you take as "understanding".
Understanding does not mean one has to give a scientific explaination of a
phenomenon. This idea has come en vouge the past 300 years in western
culture, that's true. But before that time - and in everydays life of jane
doe, you and me - we did not analyze the world and the events in there
scientifically. However we have always developed a concept of what to
expect and how to interpret phenomena in a very pragmatic way.
Understanding in this sense has thus nothing to do with the ability to make
an explicit representation of it.

Maybe you will understand what is meant here by taking the example of your
mental model of gravity. You don't have to go into Newton's laws of
gravity, Riemanian manifolds of the general theory of relativity or
esotheric approaches of quantim gravity to develop a model of "up" and
"down" and that "things" fall "down" when not supported by anything
underneath. But you clearly have developed an understanding of gravity from
very early childhood on and the world tends to behave quite consistently
with this model.

This conceptual compression human minds undertake to get hold of the events
in their world are the mental models. And fitting events into them means
"understanding" - even if one never generates an explicit representation of
the model.

When you encounter events that are relevant to you but don't fit your
mental model of the context you will become either scared, just puzzeled or
curious, depending of the kind of "relevance" you assign to the event.

>To help yourself better understand the above, think of a mental model as a
>representation of things that you are "aware" of. The fact that you are
>aware of something doesn't necessary mean you understand it.

Again, you'll get on the right track if you understand the difference
between a representation of a model and the model itself in people's minds.


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