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Exploring the Content of Shared Mental Models in Project Teams

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Final rept., 15 Apr 2002-30 Sep 2005

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The goal of this project was to advance our understanding of the mental model convergence process. Five technical objectives were established to achieve this goal. Two phases of experimentation were undertaken to address the objectives. The first was a quasi-experiment where teams of students undertaking semester-long projects completed questionnaires at four time periods during the semester. The second were laboratory behavioral simulations where teams of three students completed two simulation sessions on progressively difficult tasks. The objectives and the corresponding findings are summarized. First, a model of mental model convergence was developed by integrating existing theory from literatures such as shared mental models, project teams, group development, information processing, information sharing, and transactive memory. This model depicts a three-phase approach to mental model convergence. Specifically, team members 1 orient themselves to the team and its task, 2 differentiate their own personal mental models from the mental models of their team mates, and 3 integrate these differing perspectives. The second objective was to explore the way in which individually-held mental models converge among team members to become shared. Three methods were examined for measuring mental model convergence to address the third objective. The first two were described in the previous paragraph. The third was examined using data collected at the end of the simulation. Team members completed questionnaires comprised of existing scales designed to measure team perceptions about constructs such as goal clarity, cooperation, and team skills. The interrater agreement among member responses was used to score convergence in team members mental models. The fourth and fifth objectives were to confirm that multiple mental models function simultaneously and to determine how shared mental models regarding teamwork impact team performance.

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  • Psychology
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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