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Mental Models
in Healthcare Research & Journeymapping 

Mapping Minds in Healthcare
A design approach to identify mental models, their dynamics, and their effect on the acceptability and awareness of complex service systems


Leah Putman, Shuxian Qian, Melissa Kramer

Mental Model Research for Systemic Impact

The investigation of the mental models can help systemic designers to gain a deeper level of empathy towards humans in order to tackle the complexity of healthcare systems. Moreover, the creation of new methods to identify mental models can serve as a basis for future in-depth research and design for different fields.

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We engaged students to find out more about their mental models, specifically their expectations and experiences, visiting a general practitioner in the Netherlands. Within these students, we used purposeful random sampling targeting several subgroups.

Research Method

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​​Visuals to trigger memories

Initial questions to see the full breadth of the research area

Deep reflection questions that move from general to specific

Follow up questions to follow the passion

Ask for expectations

Ask for surprise


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Two-way thinking: Participants sometimes consider different possibilities from different perspectives due to the diverse roles they have in a system.

Empathy to others: Participants will step in others’ shoes unconsciously.

Awareness of mental model shifting by self-reflection: Participants are aware of the change in their way of thinking when they reflect on their experience.

Limitation of ideal by past experiences: Ideals are limited by what participants think as a kind of the “best of” their past experiences.

Impact of stereotype for expectations: Participants will base their expectations on a stereotype or partial information that overtakes other influences in the mental model.

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