Mental models are diagrams that represent the underlying philosophies and emotions that drive people’s behavior, matched up with the ways you support them with your product. Rather than knowing “I like to go to movies alone,” you’ll dig down to the myriad reasons why. (E.g. “I like to give the director the attention and respect he deserves, because when I wrote a play in college, people didn’t pay attention very well, they didn’t get the point, and I felt frustrated.”) Knowing the motivating philosophy opens up different avenues for supporting the behavior. You could, for example, offer additional means for this type of moviegoer to “get the point” of the movie. Mental models are useful as structures for attaching these ideas to sets of philosophies and for generating new ideas in places where there are gaps.
In her presentation, author Indi Young will discuss how to make sure mental models truly represents the root of what is driving your user’s natural behavior. It is easy to make assumptions; research often stops at this preference level. However, there is so much more to find out about people. If you learn to listen and notice where you make assumptions about what people are saying or doing, you can learn to dig deeper. Using what she calls the hallway test, Indi will discuss how to stop yourself and ask what is really behind something.