Abstract for:Formal Methods Using Mental Data Part II: Supporting the Craft of Conceptualization & Simulation
The practice of using mental data in system dynamics is still an informal part of the methodology. This article presents an applied case description of a suite of formal methods which enable an empirically-rigorous process of employing qualitative data in the conceptualization and simulation phases of the modeling process. (Part I of this article utilizes a novel theoretical framework to demonstrate the contribution these methods permit. It also describes the practical and theoretical problems the methods were designed to address.) The methods are designed with a distinctly outward-looking orientation and begin with the sound assumption that individual experience can provide a limited, tentative perception of causal structure. Visualizations test fitness of key assumptions (e.g., resolving diverse perspectives). Used together, the methods provide a rigorous process for developing an endogenous theory of a problem, grounding it in individual-level perception, probing the extent of shared understanding, probing generalizability across cases and in selecting adequate chunks of mental data for use in system conceptualization and structure-behavior testing of a simulation. While the methods are accessible to novices and build on each other in an iterative process, any could be used as a stand-alone feature in many types of system dynamics studies.