Should I Call It a Mental Model?
I've gotten a lot of feedback about the title "Alignment Diagrams." I am keeping a tally. Six people have said they like it, nine people have good reasons for me to continue calling it "mental model," and nine people would rather I use a different name altogether. What do you think?
I began referring to the process as "task analysis" in 1993. I saw a lot of eyeballs rolled heavenward, though. Business stakeholders and peers who were doing the analysis all gave me the distinct impression that it implied too much work. So I got rid of the word "analysis" and, when I came up with the diagram in 2001, started calling it "mental model." People adopted it. There was much less eyeball movement heavenward.
However, the phrase "mental model" is overloaded with meaning. People from the world of cognitive psychology might take issue with what the process produces. Academics will take issue with the way I am defining it. My publisher wants to avoid arguments, so together with his board of advisors, we came up with the name "alignment diagrams." We hoped to emphasize how the diagram can be used.
I would like to hear from you. Should I continue to call it "mental model," and get ready for the arguments? Should I stick with "alignment diagram?" Or should I try one of the suggestions that I've heard? These are the names people are using for the process and the diagram within their own organizations:
- Content and Task Analysis Model
- Content Cognition Model
- Goal Mapping
- Goal Oriented Site Architecture
- Mental Map
- Task Model
Some people say I should keep the focus on the model itself. Others say the name should be broad enough to cover what comes after the creation of the model. A couple of people say the name should connote the human/creative side --the fact that it's a thought process, not a rigid, provable mathematical model.
And a whole bunch of people that I've worked with wonder why we can't just keep calling it "mental model."