Re: Error of Mental Models? LO1947

Michael McMaster (
Wed, 5 Jul 1995 21:12:42 +0000

Replying to LO1890 --

Doug, I'm not sure I'm up to answer your ending question because I
consider it profound and calling for deep thinking. We'll see it I
end up tackling it. However, I can address a couple of other points.

The first is that Flores, Winograd and Searle are sources of my
thinking - along with many others. The others are postmodern,
hermenuetic and deconstructionist philosopher and some earlier
linguistic work such as Korzybski. I also am deeply indebted to the
work of Francisco Varela.

"or does the problem lay in ......? My message didn't contain the
last of this question. However, I can respond to the question of
"When is it inapropriate to use 'mental model' terminology?" it's
inapropriate when the listener is not sophisticated enough to fully
appreciate what is meant by the term. That means to mean, when the
listener cannot separate his identity from the 'mental model' nor
distinguish mental models as "a dime a dozen" and freely operate with
many of them. That is, I think it's mostly inapropriate.

I'm not sure how to answer the "body of knowledge question". I think
that there is a body of knowledge but I can't point you to much of it
in print besides the authors that you mention. My starting point is
to consider a corporation or a culture as nothing but a network of
conversation. From there, you can identify conversations by type
(action, commitment, declaration, speculation, etc) and you can
identify them by intention and other categories. The point is to see
their nodes, connections and interplay rather than the specific
instances - see the patterns and be able to reduce them to specifics.

By "assessing" do you mean making judgements or categorisations? You
can do these by noting, for example, what percentage of conversation
- say at meetings - end with action conversations and other similar
results. I'm not sure of the utility of such assessment, but the
identification of conversations is not a mystery and can be analysed
and assessed however one cares to do it.

But then you close with a "mental model" approach. Why not just take
the theory or approach and try it out? There's a taxonomy here but I
don't know about mental model. My reaction to the word is that it is
too non-specific and general to be of much use.

Michael McMaster