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A mental model in psychology is an internal representation of external reality, hypothesized to play a major role in cognition, reasoning and decision-making. The term was coined by Kenneth Craik in 1943 who suggested that the mind constructs "small-scale models" of reality that it uses to anticipate events.
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In psychology, the term mental models is sometimes used to refer to mental representations or mental simulation generally. The concepts of schema (psychology) and conceptual models are cognitively adjacent. At other times it is used to refer to § Mental models and reasoning and to the mental model theory of reasoning developed by Philip Johnson-Laird and Ruth M.J. Byrne.