Abstract for: Learning to Think in Circles: Improving Mental Models of a Dynamic System

This paper addresses the learning of feedback-thinking. Feedback-thinking is the ability to perceive circular causal relationships. Untrained individuals are known to misperceive feedback dynamics that experienced feedback-thinkers perceive with ease. What are the changes in perception of feedback that are triggered by an introduction course on system dynamics? We report on an experiment in the context of a business case study. We represent mental models of dynamic systems (MMDS) by variables, links and feedback loops. Then, we compare MMDS by using an innovative method. We found that most of the management students in our experiments perceive feedback loops after a training intervention. However, many of the variables, links, and feedback loops that are perceived stem not from the case study description; it seems that they originate from the imagination of the individuals. This suggests that becoming a feedback-thinker is a learning process and begs the question if there are different stages of expertise. For further research, we suggest to study the performance of feedback-thinkers with different level of systems dynamics expertise and domain knowledge. By this, we detail our understanding of how feedback-thinking can be learned.