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Advances in Human-Computer Interaction
Volume 2017, Article ID 3683546, 14 pages
Research Article

How Influential Are Mental Models on Interaction Performance? Exploring the Gap between Users’ and Designers’ Mental Models through a New Quantitative Method

Department of Industrial Engineering, Chongqing University, Chongqing 400044, China

Correspondence should be addressed to Jia Zhou; moc.liamg@70aijuohz

Received 15 May 2017; Accepted 13 September 2017; Published 18 October 2017

Academic Editor: Hideyuki Nakanishi

Copyright © 2017 Bingjun Xie et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The objective of this study is to investigate the effect of the gap between two different mental models on interaction performance through a quantitative way. To achieve that, an index called mental model similarity and a new method called path diagram to elicit mental models were introduced. There are two kinds of similarity: directionless similarity calculated from card sorting and directional similarity calculated from path diagram. An experiment was designed to test their influence. A total of 32 college students participated and their performance was recorded. Through mathematical analysis of the results, three findings were derived. Frist, the more complex the information structures, the lower the directional similarity. Second, directional similarity (rather than directionless similarity) had significant influence on user performance, indicating that it is more effective in eliciting mental models using path diagram than card sorting. Third, the relationship between information structures and user performance was partially mediated by directional similarity. Our findings provide practitioners with a new perspective of bridging the gap between users’ and designers’ mental models.