Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Mental models, magical thinking and individual differences.

Turner, Phil; Sobolewska, Emilia


Phil Turner


Broadly, there are two mutually exclusive accounts of how people (non-specialist users) reason about and conceptualize interactive technology. The first is based on classical cognitive psychology and is characterized by the term mental model. The second, drawing on concepts from social cognition, observes that people often anthropomorphize technology. We argue that people are able to exhibit both of these quite different styles of cognition, which Baron-Cohen has described as systemizing and empathizing. The former is associated with the drive to analyze, explore, and construct a system, whereas the latter is the ability to spontaneously tune into another’s thoughts and feelings. The propensity to systemize might give rise to a mental model, while the empathizing tendency might tend to anthropomorphize technology. We present an empirical study that lends support for the above position.


Turner, P., & Sobolewska, E. (2009). Mental models, magical thinking and individual differences. Human technology an interdisciplinary journal on humans in ICT environments, 5, 90-113

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date 2009-05
Deposit Date Jan 12, 2010
Publicly Available Date Jan 12, 2010
Print ISSN 1795-6889
Publisher University of Jyväskylä, Agora Center
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 5
Pages 90-113
Keywords human–computer interaction; cognitive style; mental model; anthropomorphization;
Public URL


You might also like

Downloadable Citations