Oregon State University

Mental Models Interviewing for More-Effective Communication

Joe Cone and Kirsten Winters

All professionals conduct interviews, often to determine what another person understands, feels, believes, or is willing to discuss about topics of interest. The method of mental models interviewing can be a distinct advantage to such interviewers, as it provides a structure grounded in behavioral and communication research. Just as a model airplane is a representation of a real airplane, so are mental models representations in our minds of something real. The question we're trying to answer in mental models interviewing is, how does this other person put together this reality? A model airplane comes in a box full of pieces; what do interviewees perceive as being in the "box" of the topic at hand, and how do they think the pieces fit together? More precisely, interviewers often want to know how interviewees understand causes and effects. Mental Models Interviewing is intended to help professionals such as agency officials, university outreach/extension specialists, and social science researchers interview more effectively by answering the questions "What am I listening for?" and "How am I listening?"

The other five publications in the "Public Science Communication Research and Practice" series are: Public Outreach and Behavior Change: An Annotated Reference Guide for Outreach Practitioners, Hold that Thought! (ORESU-H-08-005), Expand Your View (ORESU-H-08-006), Structured Decision Making (ORESU-H-11-001), and An Analysis of a Survey of Oregon Coast Decision Makers Regarding Climate Change (ORESU-S-09-001).

Product Number: 
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12 pp.
Size and Format: 
8 1/2 x 11, color cover, B&W text, paper

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