Abstract for: How analyzing mental maps fail

Developing mental maps is the intermediary step towards uncovering and communicating about individuals' presumptions of causal structures of systems. Yet, the next step is often vague: how can we systematically evaluate the maps; how can we contrast different individuals’ presumptions? In this note, we review several common approaches and apply them to a dataset of 30 graduate students who analyzed a complex socio-environmental problem. Our analysis shows that these methods provide inconsistent results and often fall short in capturing variation in mental maps. The analysis points to a lack of effective methods for analyzing mental maps, and helps articulate a major research problem for systems thinking scholars.