A Scoping Review of Mental Model Research in HCI from 2010 to 2021

Xinhui Hu, Michael Twidale

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Research on mental models has been ongoing in Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) since the 1980s. A mental model derives from humans’ perception, memories, knowledge, and causal beliefs about the external reality, mediating how they describe, explain, and predict the world surrounding them. By understanding users’ mental models of a target system, designers can improve the learnability and usability of a system via a better interface. Although understanding mental models is important for interface design, unfortunately understanding what is meant by the term ‘mental model’ can be a challenge. The field has historically been plagued by inconsistent usage of the term, as pointed out by prior researchers. It has been some time since the last comprehensive evaluation of HCI-related mental model research. This scoping review provides a comprehensive overview of the current literature on mental model research in HCI from 2010 to 2021, exploring aspects such as where research has been conducted, by whom, on what, using which methods, and for which purposes. The findings suggest a growing diversity in approach, with new perspectives and methodologies being introduced. Our review was initiated by a desire to understand the state of the art of mental models research, and sustained by a sense of confusion about the different ways that different researchers used the term. We hope that it will help people new to the field to make sense of the rich, diverse, but at times rather confusing ways that the term ‘mental model’ is used in HCI research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHCI International 2023 – Late Breaking Papers - 25th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, HCII 2023, Proceedings
EditorsMasaaki Kurosu, Ayako Hashizume, Aaron Marcus, Elizabeth Rosenzweig, Marcelo M. Soares, Don Harris, Wen-Chin Li, Dylan D. Schmorrow, Cali M. Fidopiastis, Pei-Luen Patrick Rau
Number of pages25
ISBN (Print)9783031480379
StatePublished - 2023
Event25th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, HCII 2023 - Copenhagen, Denmark
Duration: Jul 23 2023Jul 28 2023

Publication series

NameLecture Notes in Computer Science (including subseries Lecture Notes in Artificial Intelligence and Lecture Notes in Bioinformatics)
Volume14054 LNCS
ISSN (Print)0302-9743
ISSN (Electronic)1611-3349


Conference25th International Conference on Human-Computer Interaction, HCII 2023


  • HCI
  • Mental model
  • Scoping review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Theoretical Computer Science
  • General Computer Science


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