Making use of mental models in your work

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Making use of mental models in your work

Making use of mental models in your work

Let’s begin with an explanation. What exactly are mental models?

Mental models are how people believe something works. It is entirely based on belief rather than facts. We see the situation and try to make assumptions based on our prior knowledge/experience.

When you visit the website, you expect the logo to be in the left corner and the search box to be in the right corner. And you can expect to find contact information in the footer or on the contact us page. Likewise, we have our own beliefs and assumptions about a website.

When people see something that breaks their assumptions or belief, they will often get disappointed and frustrated.

It’s called Familiarity Bias. People prefer familiar experiences. When introducing a new feature or product, try using existing patterns and visuals to help people understand faster.

If you are a designer who worked in Photoshop and when you switch to other design software like Illustrator or Canva, You can apply the same shortcuts for the exact job, such as cutting, shifting left and right, and so on. Rather than that If you’re creating something unfamiliar, it will take some time to adapt it. But on the Internet: websites, people do have a lot of choices and one click away to reach your competitor’s site. So it’s better to design our products as much as possible to how people think they work.

How they believe it works Vs How it really works

Let’s take this example.

If you are going to the shop and hope to buy a t-shirt and you are not sure about what is the material of the product and couldn’t find it in the price tag or anywhere. So you ask the Customer representatives – What is the material of this T-shirt?

He said- Wait, Sir, Our usual reply time is within 2 hours!

Wooh! What was that? Disappointed, and frustrated.

Well, It’s what will happen if you set in your chatbot screen like that. “We usually reply within hours, Please leave your mail address or Phone number”

In this case, People’s Mental model works like that, they expect quick answers and move on. Yeah, it’s really hard to fulfill their expectations but we have to try possibilities.

So when you design your chatbot or whatever make sure to overlay people’s mental models as much as possible.

It’s called Social Norms – People expect most online interactions to follow the same social rules as person-to-person interactions. It’s a shortcut that your brain uses to quickly evaluate trustworthiness.

Mental Model Migration is another psychological principle in mental models. If your product is innovative, it likely introduces new concepts. Getting new users to understand those concepts will require them to migrate from their old mental models to your new concepts.

Can we break the mental models?

Yes, I remember the story of two shoe salesmen.

A shoe firm once dispatched two salesmen to Africa to assess the market potential for their products. One salesperson was assigned to the east coast of Africa, while the other was sent to the west coast. Both salespeople returned to the office after completing a preliminary survey of the target market.

“No one here wears shoes, there is no market for us here!” reported the salesman dispatched to Africa’s east coast.

“No one here wears shoes, there is a huge market for us, send inventory fast!” said the other salesman.

In this case, We can identify both Salesperson’s mental model and the African people’s mental model also. Yes, it’s breakable with the right marketing and psychology approach.

Please let me know in the comments if you found this article useful or if you have any concerns. Follow the atomic habits author James Clear’s Newsletter and NN group articles to learn more about mental models.

Selvadinesh Sasikumar Changed status to publish November 14, 2022