John Maule – The benefits of using icons to generate mental models

The chapter (with Angela Cassidy) presents an innovative approach for capturing the mental models of food chains held by the public and other stakeholders such as food producers, scientists and retailers, based on using icons depicting key elements such as farms, factories, lorries, supermarkets, kitchens. Through group discussion different stakeholder groups used these icons and the links between them to construct food chains on a large sheet of paper, then identified where in the chain the risks to public health occurred, the degree of risk involved and suggestions how to mitigate these risks. This procedure was much more productive than earlier procedures based on interviews and focus groups and revealed important differences in the mental models of the different stakeholders e.g. producers believed that the significant food risks were later in the chain (i.e. in homes) whereas the public indicated that they were earlier in the chain (i.e. during production). There is a discussion of the implication of these and other differences in mental models for communicating food risks.

Cassidy A. and Maule, A.J. (2020) Risk communication and participatory research: ‘fuzzy felt’, visual games and group discussion of complex issues. In P. Reavey (Ed) Visual Methods in Psychology: Using and interpreting images in qualitative research. pp 323 – 340.  Routledge, London. 2nd Edition