Case studies of mental models in home heat control: searching for feedback, valve, timer and switch theories

Revell, Kirsten M.A. and Stanton, Neville A. (2013) Case studies of mental models in home heat control: searching for feedback, valve, timer and switch theories Applied Ergonomics, 45, (3), pp. 363-378. (doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2013.05.001). (PMID:23731626).


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An intergroup case study was undertaken to determine if: 1) There exist distinct mental models of home heating function, that differ significantly from the actual functioning of UK heating systems; and 2) Mental models of thermostat function can be categorized according to Kempton’s (1986) valve and feedback shared theories, and others from the literature. Distinct, inaccurate mental models of the heating system, as well as thermostat devices in isolation, were described. It was possible to categorise thermostat models by Kempton’s (1986) feedback shared theory, but other theories proved ambiguous. Alternate control devices could be categorized by Timer (Norman, 2002) and Switch (Peffer et al., 2011) theories. The need to consider the mental models of the heating system in terms of an integrated set of control devices, and to consider user’s goals and expectations of the system benefit, was highlighted. The value of discovering shared theories, and understanding user mental models, of home heating, are discussed with reference to their present day relevance for reducing energy consumption.

Item Type: Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI): doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2013.05.001
ISSNs: 0003-6870 (print)
Keywords: mental models, home heating, device models, energy consuming behaviour, usability
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
T Technology > TD Environmental technology. Sanitary engineering
T Technology > TH Building construction
Organisations: Faculty of Engineering and the Environment
ePrint ID: 353338
Date :
Date Event
31 May 2013e-pub ahead of print
May 2014Published
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2013 12:30
Last Modified: 17 Apr 2017 15:25
Further Information:Google Scholar

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