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Mental models represent explicitly what is true, but not what is false.


The greater the number of models that a task elicits, and the greater the complexity of individual models, the poorer performance is. Resoners focus on a subset of the possible models of multiple-model problems – often just a single model – and are led to erroneous conclusions and irrational decisions.


Mental models are strongly conservative: left unchallenged, they will cause us to see what we have always seen: the same needs, the same opportunities, the same results. And because we see what our mental models permit us to see, we do what our mental models permit us to do.


Because mental models “limit us to familiar ways of thinking and acting,”


According to the theory of mental models, we are saving all perceived stimulation and observations to our memory in the form of abstract models , which are cognitive constructs formed by basic sensory information, and are combined with already saved information. Prof. Jay Wright Forrester defined a mental model as: ”The image of the world around us, which we carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagines all the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts, and relationships between them, and uses those to represent the real system.

根据心智模式的理论,我们保存素有的接收到的刺激与观察结果到我们的记忆中间,并且建立起来抽象的模式。我们通过最原始的感官刺激去认知上建构他们,同时还与已经存下来的信息混合在一起。PROF  这样定义心智模式:我们身边世界的图像,在我们脑子里面的,只是一个模型。没有人在脑子里面建构出所有的世界,政府或者国家。他只是选择他们之间的概念、关系,然后用这些去代表整个系统。

The term is believed to have been originated by Kenneth Craik in his 1943 book The Nature of Explanation. After the early death of Craik in a bicycle accident, the idea was not elaborated on until much later. Before Craik,Georges-Henri Luquet had already developed this idea to some extent: in his seminal book Le dessin enfantin(Children’s Drawings), published in 1927 by Alcan, Paris, he argued that children obviously construct internal models, a view that influenced, among others, Jean Piaget.

Two books, both titled Mental Models, appeared in 1983 [7] One was by Philip Johnson-Laird, a professor atPrinceton University‘s Department of Psychology. The other was a collection of articles edited by Dedre Gentnerand Albert Stevens. The first line of this book helps explain the idea further: “One function of this chapter is to belabor the obvious; people’s views of the world, of themselves, of their own capabilities, and of the tasks that they are asked to perform, or topics they are asked to learn, depend heavily on the conceptualizations that they bring to the task.” See Mental Models (Gentner-Stevens book).


Since then there has been much discussion and use of the idea in human-computer interaction and usability by people such as Donald Norman and by Steve Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think. Walter Kintsch and Teun A. van Dijk, using the term situation model (in their book Strategies of Discourse Comprehension, 1983), showed the relevance of mental models for the production and comprehension of discourse.

Each model represents a possibility. Its structure corresponds to the structure of the world, but it has symbols for negation, probability, believability, and so on. Models that are kinematic or dynamic unfold in time to represent sequences of events.


Models are iconic insofar as possible, that is, their parts and relations correspond to those of the situations that they represent. They underlie visual images, but they also represent abstractions, and so they can represent the extensions of all sorts of relations. They can also be supplemented by symbolic elements to represent, for example, negation.


Models explain deduction, induction, and explanation. In a valid deduction, the conclusion holds for all models of the premises. In an induction, knowledge eliminates models of possibilities, and so the conclusion goes beyond the information given. In an abduction, knowledge introduces new concepts in order to yield an explanation.


The theory gives a ‘dual process’ account of reasoning. System 1 constructs initial models of premises and is restricted in computational power, i.e., it cannot carry out recursive inferences. System 2 can follow up the consequences of consequences recursively, and therefore search for counterexamples, where a counterexample is a model of the premises in which the conclusion does not hold. 


The greater the number of alternative models needed, the harder it is: we take longer and are more likely to err, especially by overlooking a possibility,In the simulation of a sequence of events, the later in the sequence that a critical event occurs, the longer it will take us to make the inference about it. 

可替代的模型数目越多,表现就越糟糕: 我们花更长的时间,而我们也更容易在模拟系列事件中出错。尤其是通过忽略了可能性。在系列中间,重要事件发生得越晚,我们就要花越长的时间获得推论。

The principle of truth: mental models represent only what is true, and accordingly they predict the occurrence of systematic and compelling fallacies if inferences depend on what is false. An analogous principle applies to the representation of what is possible rather than impossible, to what is permissible rather than impermissible, and to other similar contrasts.


The meanings of terms such as ‘if’ can be modulated by content and knowledge. For example, our geographical knowledge modulates the disjunction: Jay is in Stockholm or he is in Sweden. Unlike most disjunctions, this one yields a definite conclusion: Jay is in Sweden.


We should also add that the theory accounts for the informality of arguments in science and daily life, whereas logic is notoriously of little help in analyzing them. If people base such arguments on mental models, then there is no reason to suppose that they will lay them out like the steps of a formal proof. The theory of mental models, however, is not a paragon. It is radically incomplete; and it is likely to have problems and deficiencies. Proponents of rule theories have accused it of every conceivable shortcoming from blatant falsehood to untestability. It postulates that human reasoners can in principle see the force of counterexamples, and indeed people are able to construct them — a competence that is beyond the power of formal rule theories to explain. The model theory may well be overturned by counterexamples predicted by a superior theory. In which case, it will at least have had the virtue of accounting for its own demise.




  1. 心智模式:什么是心智模式?
  2. 心智模式:一些科学的概念
  3. 心智模式:如何改善我们的心智模式?
  4. 心智模式:心智模式成熟的标志
  5. 心智模式:认识你自己
  6. 心智模式:如何面对逆境?
  7. 心智模式:如何看待成败?
  8. 心智模式:仁者见仁、智者见智
  9. 心智模式:心智模式的更多资料





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《设计模式:可复用面向对象软件的基础》 Erich Gamma (作者), Richard Helm (作者), Ralph Johnson (作者), John Vlissides (作者), 李英军 (译者), 等 (译者)