Mental Models Exercise LO10016
Tue, 17 Sep 1996 07:45:59 -0400

Replying to LO9976 --

Woody Davis wrote:

> . . am looking for a stronger experience (exercise) to lead into the
> discussion about assumptions. I would appreciate any ideas.

I think Bill Gardner's suggestions are pretty good. Woody, I'm not sure
what you mean by "stronger", but one of the most interesting "table top"
demonstrations of mental models I have seen was in a video (sorry, can't
remember the title).

In it, the speaker had a deck of playing cards. He would flash a card
very briefly and then ask the people at the table to write down what it
was. People had a lot of trouble identifying the suits of the cards, even
though they usually got the value correct.

With each round of cards he slowed down a little, showing the card a
little longer, until it became apparent that the cards were normal in
every detail except that the colors were reversed: hearts and diamonds
were black, while spades and clubs were red.

What made this so interesting is that, for varying lengthes of time,
everyone (including me watching the video) saw the cards as normal. The
"mental model" of what colors the suits were over-rode the objective
evidence of direct experience until the discrepancy became so obvious that
it could no longer be ignored. The delay in recognizing the suits of the
cards was caused by the mental model literally changing what people saw.

It is a great example to start a discussion and, I am thinking, might even
be a good introduction to the kind of material Ben proposed. After all,
isn't one of the cliche responses to any terrible situation to say "This
is not happening!", when, manifestly, it is?

Hope this helps,
Robert Lucadello


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