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  Technical Report: The essential role of mental models in HCI: Card, Moran and Newell

The essential role of mental models in HCI: Card, Moran and Newell

Technical Report #:06-05
Author(s): Kate Ehrlich
Full Citation:Essay for book chapter, HCI Remixed: Reflections on Notable HCI Papers, edited by Thomas Erickson and David W. McDonald


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In the formative years of HCI in the early1980s, researchers explored the idea that users form mental models of computer systems which they use to guide their interaction with the system. This was a powerful concept because it meant that if we, as interface designers, understood what kind of model the user constructed as well as the process of constructing it, we could make computers easier to use by developing systems that were consistent with that model or that made it easier to construct the model.

In this brief essay I examine a concept of mental models put forward by Card, Moran and Newell (1983) in their book, The Psychology of Human-Computer Interaction, and explore its impact on the science and application of HCI. This book and subsequent papers had a strong and lasting influence on the field of HCI as an applied research discipline because it provided a testable theory that bridged the divide between psychological theories of human processing and the emerging discipline of interface design.

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