ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

›› 2009, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (06): 519-533.

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Interaction of Shared Mental Models in A Complex Task

XU Han-Yi;MA Jian-Hong;YANG Kai;FANG Hui-Zhen   

  1. Department of Psychology and Behavioral Sciences , Zhejiang University , Hangzhou 310028, China
  • Received:2008-06-25 Revised:1900-01-01 Published:2009-06-30 Online:2009-06-30
  • Contact: MA Jian-Hong

Abstract: Shared Mental Model is a shared, organized mental representation of the key factors of a team’s state which helps teammates to explain and expect the requirements of team’s task and of its members. Share mental model facilitates the communication and coordination within a team and improves a team’s performance. But it’s extremely hard and risky to overlap all the mental models, which may leads to group thinking. What teammates share more may make up for what they share less. Moreover, the function of SMMs depends on how teammates deal with difference between mental models within a team. When sharedness of certain belief is low, the difference between mental models leads to misunderstanding, conflicts and low performance. But with a shared belief held by teammates, a much more effective teamwork is reinforced through various thoughts, intercommunication and global understanding. Team spirit is such a belief that stands for shared team targets and shared team values. This study hypothesized that as moderator(s), some SMM(s), especially shared Team Spirit Mental Model, would strengthen the positive relation between other SMM(s) and performance in a complex task.
We interviewed 9 enterprisers in different new venture programs. A coding manual based on which we compiled a questionnaire was derived from the interviews. Using the questionnaire we then conducted an ERP simulation game in order to collect mental models and performances. 31 teams of 127 subjects of different backgrounds participated. We used Path Finder to get the closeness index C of teams’ SMMs for later analysis.
Analysis based on Ground Theory showed a reliability of 0.92 of the coding manual with 35 concepts sorted in 4 SMMs (task model, teammate model, teamwork model and team spirit model). Stepwise regression analysis showed that sharedness of Teamwork Mental Model had a significant positive effect when regressed on performance; ANOVAs showed that team composition did not influence the closeness of each SMM; hierarchical regression analysis showed that as a moderator, sharedness of Task Mental Model strengthened positive relation between sharedness of Teamwork Mental Model and performance; sharedness of Team Spirit Mental Model strengthened the positive relation between sharedness of Teamwork Mental Model and performance.
The study implies that Teamwork Mental Model is a robust indicator of performance. Team composition didn’t influence sharedness of SMM, indicating that experience has little impact on the development of SMM. The study also shows that Task Mental Model and Team Spirit Model have moderating effects. Finally, the moderating effect of Team Spirit Mental Model implies that belief has a function of alleviating conflicts between team members. Due to shared belief people think of, care about and understand others with a result of improved performance and better decision-making. Future research should pay more attention to the role of SMM in conflicts and in understanding with other teammates.

Key words: shared mental model, team spirit, moderation