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The M-Tool

M-Tool is the Mental Model Mapping Tool, an innovative free software designed to capture perceptions of complex systems (or mental models). This is the first mental model software that can be used by all kinds of users, as it does not require the respondent to read or write. Thanks to the standardised set-up of the tool, you can directly compare the perceptions of groups of respondents. The tool can be tailored to map perceptions of any system or phenomenon that consists of factors and causal links between those factors. Respondents create visual influence diagrams by organizing relevant factors and linking them. For example, one can draw the processes that cause climate change, influence the fluctuation of (fish) stock, or the functioning of an economy.

To go directly to the M-Tool:

The M-Tool mental model mapping screen, with the system factors on the left, and weighted arrows on the right

Example of a mental model created with M-Tool

Why Use M-Tool?

  • A standardized tool – for comparing mental models
  • Suitable for large sample sizes
  • Does not require respondents’ literacy
  • No internet connection required during sampling
  • Can be tailored to map perceptions of any system or phenomenon
In contrast to other mental model elicitation methods, M-Tool uses a fully computerized approach that allows rapid collection of large samples. M-Tool uses a fully standardized approach as it provides your respondents with the same set of factors with which they draw their mental model. M-Tool hence gives you the unique benefit of comparing the mental models across and within (groups of) respondents. M-Tool can help uncover differences in mental models which may keep stakeholder groups from addressing challenges jointly and effectively. Because you can populate the tool yourself, mental models of any kind of system can be captured. M-Tool relies solely on intuitive icons to display the factors, allowing you to assess populations that cannot read or write, such as low educated populations or children.

M-Tool can be used for:

  • Comparing mental models between groups of respondents (e.g. different types of stakeholders, experts vs. the general public, across cultures, communities from different geographical areas, comparing children’s mental models)
  • Assessing changes in mental models over time, to investigate the stability of mental models or the impact of an intervention on the respondents’ mental model.
  • Starting a conversation between stakeholders on the functioning of a system and how to address challenges within the system.
  • Comparing perceptions with the true state of a system.
  • Investigating the relation between (differences in) individual mental models and collective mental models composed in a group.
See How To Use M-Tool for how you can tailor M-Tool to your needs!
Mental models of Tanzanian fishermen
Στιγμιότυπο 2023-06-17, 2.12.59 μμ

Simple mental model

Στιγμιότυπο 2023-06-17, 2.13.42 μμ

Complex mental model