Alternative Mental Models

In activity 3.5 in the reading, a question was posed involving temperature and thermostat usage. To them, a increase in temperature would come just as quickly by setting by setting the thermostat at the desired temperature, 70 F, or at a much higher temperature. The main difference being that the latter option will keep increasing the heat after the desired point is reached.

What gets to me is the lack of alternative thought given to the question. In my old house, we had a wood burning stove and a none-to-modern heating system (forgive me if I can’t recall the exact specifics). The thermostat would heat the house to the desired temperature by averaging the current temperature with a higher or lower temperature. This system is obviously less efficient from an energy-conserving standpoint but does end up heating the house more effectively by using more fuel.

Another question of perception just hit me. When I was younger, my parents had me tested for a few learning disabilities and cognitive disorders that had cropped up in our family history. When the tester flashed me a note card holding musical note, she asked me what I say, and she expected me to say a musical note. I had just started taking the piano a few months before and knew the notes on the scale. So when I told her it was a “G,” she looked at me weird and asked me again what it was. I, of course, was puffed up with pride and pointed to the scale and said it was a “G note.” Directly afterward, I did the whole mnemonic device, “Ever Good Boy Does Fine,” to further illustrate my point.

My question to the class is, ” In conventional mental models and approaches to things, how much are we missing out on by not considering non-mainstream approaches? And if we do want to consider these farther out processes, how wide of an avenue are we as budding HCI experts willing to go?


One Response to “Alternative Mental Models”

  1. chmbrigg Says:

    Two very interesting examples! I’m not sure i completely understand your heating system from your description, but i believe i get the more important part, which is your point that it was not a standard thermostat/system relationship (or at least not the one described in the book).

    I think i also (correct me if i’m wrong) get your point that there are some differing mental models that are FUNCTIONALLY equivalent to more mainstream ones (i.e., the person using one is able to function similarly to or better than the person who has a more “mainstream” model).

    If this is your point, it brings up some very good questions that we’ll be addressing over the course of the semester: How can we accomodate multiple mental models? Are mental models something that can be changed? If so, how?

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