Shared Mental Models

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Welcome to Special Interest Group page on Shared Mental Models. The aim of this Wiki is to have a place where interested researchers can share literature, ideas, resources, and more on shared mental models.

The notion of a shared mental model (SMM) is well known in the literature regarding team work among humans. It has been introduced as a way to describe how humans understand and manipulate systems and is found to aid team performance. The finding that shared mental models are important for team performance has been used in the artificial intelligence community as well. Many applications of the future will rely on cooperation between humans, agents and robots. Members of the Special Interest Group study shared mental models in the context of, for example, space exploration, dynamic task allocation, negotiation and crisis management.


Most parts of this Wiki are password protected and only accessible to members of the Special Interest Group. Membership can be obtained as described under Contact. Members have access to a base of literature on Shared Mental Models and discussion pages.


My thesis focuses on improving the effectiveness of human-robot teams. Although a basic level of competence is essential, it is coordination of joint activity between team members that is the key to improving effectiveness of hybrid human-robot teams. As such, I am studying the aspects of teamwork and the processes they involve to better understand how it can be leveraged by automation in general and robots in particular. Of particular interest in the concept of team maintenance which involves the establishment and sustainment of Common Ground.

  • Crisis Decision Making on above operational level: Willem van Santen

My research aims at developing an organizational framework that helps analyzing and improving crisis decision making on the above-operational level. On this level, the members of a crisis decision making team act not only as team members, but also as representatives of their own organizations. I will study the way this double role influences the behaviour of the team members and the effectiveness of the decision making team in the decision making process during a crisis.

  • MECA: Nanja Smets

The MECA project aims at developing the requirements for a system that empowers the cognitive capacities of human-machine teams during planetary exploration missions in order to cope autonomously with unexpected, complex and potentially hazardous situations (Neerincx et. al, 2006). We specified a theoretical and empirical founded Requirements Baseline (RB) for MECA, and its rationale consisting of scenarios and use cases, user experience claims, and core support functions.

  • Dynamic task/resource allocation: Bas Vermeulen

This project aims to research the dynamic allocation of task and resources between agents and computers through negotiation. This negoation needs to be done in a way that doesn't disrupt the human from his/her task performance. Further, agreement needs to be reached in a timely fashion and the system should be able to cope with a large number of tasks and resources. In order to achieve this, we envision that the negotiation will be done by agents on behalve of task performers (human and computers). This means that the negotiating agent and human must have shared mental models of the goals, resources, tasks etc...

  • Relation between communication and shared mental models, in online game performance. Nico van Dijk (Mediatechnology, Leiden)
  • Empirical reserach on shared mental models & team performance: Natalie van der Wal (Force Vision Lab & VU Amsterdam)

My hypothesis is that a shared extended mind can help in the learning of shared mental models. I am working on a laboratorium experiment that can prove (or reject) my hypothesis. Existent work on shared mental models, also named team mental models, states that they can positively influence team performance. Team processes (e.g. coordination, cooperation, communication) can be seen as the mediator: shared mental models need to be operationalised before they can affect the team performance. Furthermore, I want to build typologies of shared mental models and the problems/situations in which one can apply shared mental models. Also I am working on a definition of the quality of shared mental models.

  • Shared Mental Models in Air Traffic Control (Pia Justen, Dutch Aerospace Laboratory & University of Maastricht)

My research focuses on the concept of shared mental models in air traffic control (ATC). The overall aim is to investigate the role of SMM in future air traffic management which foresees changes in tasks, team composition and the degree of automation. I suppose that these novel situations increasingly require controllers to anticipate information needs and meet team and task demands in circumstances when time is of the essence. Shared mental models enable a team to take appropriate actions and fulfil teammates’ needs by ensuring a common understanding of the task and team. I developed a tailored SMM framework of current ATC. In upcoming experiments I will examine the relationship between SMM, future communication media, i.e. data link, and workload intensity, including emergency situations. Results will enrich the understanding of SMM and anticipate on training and selection of controllers.

  • Explainable AI: Maaike Harbers

My research involves the development and evaluation of intelligent agents that are able to explain their own behavior. These self-explaining agents are used to generate the behavior of virtual characters in virtual training systems, and aim to increase training effectiveness.