A comprehensive method for comparing mental models of dynamic systems
AbstractMental models are the basis on which managers make decisions even though external decision support systems may provide help. Research has demonstrated that more comprehensive and dynamic mental models seem to be at the foundation for improved policies and decisions. Eliciting and comparing such models can systematically explicate key variables and their main underlying structures. In addition, superior dynamic mental models can be identified. This paper reviews existing studies which measure and compare mental models. It shows that the methods used to compare such models lack to account for relevant aspects of dynamic systems, such as, time delays in causal links, feedback structures, and the polarities of feedback loops. Mental models without those properties are mostly static models. To overcome these limitations of the methods to compare mental models, we enhance the widely used distance ratio approach (Markóczy and Goldberg, 1995) so as to comprehend these dynamic characteristics and detect differences among mental models at three levels: the level of elements, the level of individual feedback loops, and the level of the complete model. Our contribution lies in a new method to compare explicated mental models, not to elicit such models. An application of the method shows that this previously non-existent information is essential for understanding differences between managers' mental models of dynamic systems. Thereby, a further path is created to critically analyze and elaborate the models managers use in real world decision making. We discuss the benefits and limitations of our approach for research about mental models and decision making and conclude by identifying directions for further research for operational researchers.
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Bibliographic InfoArticle provided by Elsevier in its journal European Journal of Operational Research.
Volume (Year): 210 (2011)
Issue (Month): 1 (April)
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Web page: http://www.elsevier.com/locate/eor
Problem structuring Mental models Dynamic systems Feedback;
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