What Are Mental Models?

1. Models of the Self, World, and Relationships: Models are often divided according to the contents they describe: the self, the world, and relationships. Do you remember another term for “models of relationships”?

2. Mental Models Are Structured: Mental models are memory “structures”—that is, they are stored in memory in specific ways. For example, the most important attributes of a model are recalled first. Different kinds of mental models possess different structures. Can you describe the difference between a schema and a script?

3. Mental Models Are Learned and Applied: Mental models are learned. We recall them when they seem useful in our attempts to interpret the world. There is room for error in our use of mental models. Can you identify one way mental models are often misapplied?

4. Differences in Models across People: Mental models differ from one person to the next. How do those models affect our emotional and other reactions to events?


What Are Our Models of Ourselves?

5. Possible, Actual, and Unconscious Selves: Models of the self can be as simple as a list of traits, or as evocative as an imagined self that one is afraid to become. The starting point among all these selves is the actual self—how one thinks one actually is. Then, there are ought selves and ideal selves, feared and desired selves, and even an unconscious self, called the shadow. Can you define these different selves?

6. Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy: People feel better or worse about themselves depending upon their self-esteem. Self-efficacy is more specific and action-oriented than self-esteem; it refers to the confidence people have in approaching a task. Research with self-efficacy has turned up some fairly reliable findings. Can you say what they are?

7. The Storied Self: Arguably, the broadest mental model we create of ourselves is our life story. Life stories are not simply ordered accounts of every life event a person has faced. Rather, each of us weaves together the elements of our lives that strike us as most important to who we are (and how we would like to communicate our identity to others). What is one way that psychologists categorize the episodes of these stories?


What Are Our Models of the World?

8. Formal Models and Implicit Knowledge: Formal knowledge is the sort of knowledge we acquire in settings such as schools and universities. Implicit knowledge, by comparison, is picked up informally by observing the events, objects, and people around us. Can you think of a way that formal knowledge affects a person’s life?

9. Scripts for Navigating the World: Scripts are important both to artificial intelligence and to human beings in understanding how the world works. As children grow, for example, they need to learn many scripts, such as what happens at a restaurant and how to go to a birthday party. Can you describe what a script is?

10. Implicit Theories of Personality: Each of us creates models of the people around us and how they behave. For example, people can be described as entity theorists or as incremental theorists. Can you define entity and incremental theories?

11. Learning Personality Types: Beyond general theories of personality, people create models of particular personality types (e.g., the shy person, the extravert, and the “significant others” in their lives). Can you describe some research in this area and what it tells us?

12. The Concept of the Archetype: One special kind of personality type is the archetype: a model of an iconic or mythic figure such as a magician, hero, or queen. Can you name the theorist who proposed the theory of archetypes? What profession makes some use of the archetype concept?


What Are Our Models of Relationships?

13. General Attachment Models: Attachment theory specifies two or three types of attachment patterns. Can you name them and describe them?

14. Core Conflict Relationship Themes: Do people really repeat patterns of relationships over and over again? To examine this question, Luborsky, Crits-Cristoph, and others recorded psychotherapy transcripts and then coded them for their relationship themes. What were their major findings?

15. Adult Roles and Relationships: Robert Hogan developed a socioanalytic theory of roles: What was its central idea? Can you name a few of the roles? Can you define Jung’s concept of the persona?

16. Moral and Values: Another kind of relationship model concerns the rules one lives by. What are some stages of the development of morality? What are some of the differences in values and morals that people exhibit?


How Good Are Our Mental Models?

17. Developing Constructive Models: Constructive thinking is a way of creating positive, constructive models of the world about us. What are some characteristics of constructive models?

18. Avoiding Irrational Models: Constructive thinking involves avoiding irrational models of one type or another. Can you list several kinds of irrational models people often hold of the world around them?