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Carley, Kathleen, and Michael Palmquist. "Extracting, Representing, and Analyzing Mental Models."

Carley, Kathleen, and Michael Palmquist. "Extracting, Representing, and Analyzing Mental Models." Social Forces 70.3 (Mar 1992): 601-636. [link to CASOS]


(This is the first in a series of publications I've downloaded from the Center for Computational Analysis of Social and Organizational Systems (CASOS) at Carnegie Mellon.)

"This article describes a methodology for representing mental models as maps, extracting those maps from texts, and analyzing and comparing those maps. The methodology employs a set of computer-based tools to analyze written and spoken texts" (601).

"This stance underlies the methodology described in this article and is epitomized by the following claims: (1) mental models are internal representations, (2) language is the key to understanding mental models, that is, mental models can be represented linguistically and those representations can be based on linguistic accounts, (3) mental models can be represented as networks of concepts, (4) the meaning of a concept for an individual is embedded in its relations to other concepts in the individual's mental model, and (5) the social meaning of a concept is not defined in a universal sense but rather through the intersection of individuals' mental models" (602).

3 assumptions: (1) both the cognitive structure and text can be modeled using symbols, (2) the text is a sample of what is known by the individual and hence of the contents of the individual's cognitive structure, (3) the symbolic or verbal structure extracted from the text is a sample of the full symbolic representation of the individual's cognitive structure. Completeness of sample depends on variety of factors (603).

4 steps: the researcher (1) identifies concepts, (2) defines the types of relationships that can exist between concepts, (3) codes texts according to concepts/relations, and (4) displays models graphically or analyzes them statistically (604).

vs. content analysis -- inability to accommodate context, tells us less about structure than content (605).

vs. procedural mapping -- focus on context to the exclusion of content/meaning (605).

cognitive mapping -- broad range of approaches, many limitations. concerns here: lack of automation, lack of procedure for cross-individual comparison, questions of representation (606).

    4 basic objects: (607-608)
  • concept ("ideational kernel")
  • relationship ("tie that links two concepts together" -- directionality, strength, sign, and meaning)
  • statement ("two concepts and the relationship between them")
  • map ("a network formed from statements")
    4-step process: (608)
  • identify the set of concepts that will be used in coding the texts
  • define the types of relationships that can exist among these concepts
  • code information in a text as a set of statements
  • display/analyze maps

Identification: confirmatory or exploratory? (609)
Extraction: representative sample, automated (610)

Defining relationships: specify how strength, sign, directionality, and meaning will be used (611).

Example of map analysis (621-624)


This series of essays from CASOS, that stretch across the 90s, are almost certainly going to be invaluable for me. First, in various ways, they model the kinds of analysis that network studies makes possible, particularly with respect to texts. And second, their bibliographic coverage of various precursors is going to make things much easier for me.

Subsequent essays in the series will get a little more at the rhetorical end of things--the focus of this piece is almost exclusively on extraction. But it does also get at one of the potential weaknesses of network mapping, which is the possible loss of qualitative data. The emphasis on the different qualities of ties/relationships is the trick.