Yesterday my wife received a call from John Kerry, the American presidential candidate. She was pretty excited, but realized fairly quickly that it was a recording. When she was done listening, she tried to delete the message.
‘No honey,‘ I said, ‘it’s a phone call.‘
‘Which number do I use to delete again?‘
‘Honey, it’s not a message, it’s a phone call.‘
‘What do you mean? I’m listening to a recording.‘
Fascinating. To her, listening to a recording (plus the reaction to the notoriety of the caller) was equal to listening to voice mail, a natural response. She was thrust into the mental model of listening to a voice mail by the characteristics, the stimuli, of the call.
Examining the stimuli that activate certain mental models would be a nice complement to Indi Young’s mental model thingy. So we not only react to what people already understand but also stimulate them into using information in a certain way.