The Mental Model consists of the cognitive structures that form the internal representation of the external world. Simply put: The picture in your head of the thing that your are thinking about.
The size of a Mental Model is proportional to the complexity of the thing it represents and the detail. The available Working Memory Capacity constraints complexity and/or detail.
Experience is the ability to retrieve (complex) Mental Models about known things with little effort at great speed.
The Mental Model is vulnerable to interruptions in two ways:
- Competition: The interrupting thing requires a different Mental Model that competes for the limited available Working Memory Capacity and can evacuate the current Mental Model fully or partially in favor of the new one.
- Entropy: While the Mental Model is not being used, for instance when another one resulting from an interruption is temporarily in the foreground, then Memory Decay acts upon the unused model, leading to its slow disintegration
- Wikipedia: Mental Model
- Altman, Trafton 2002 - Memory for goals: An activation-based model
- Interruptions: The Silent, High-Performance Killer