I found the following CUA prep question (T/F):

"Users are typically able to factually describe their own mental models"

On one hand, I would say that this is true. Users know what they think. Of course, users need to be presented with the proper structure/context in which to communicate their mental model.

However, the question qualifies the statement above with factually. I'm guessing that this keyword suggests that the CUA should provide the structure/context to create a factual representation of the user's mental model.

So, I'm guessing that based on the question semantics and context that the answer to this question should be false. Do you agree?

  • If it's a prep question does it give the recommended answer? That would give you some insight into how the questions are constructed. I found the CUA exam to be stressful. There's much to know about a broad range of topics. But I passed—and so can you. Good luck.
    – JeromeR
    Commented Oct 18, 2015 at 23:15

2 Answers 2


You're overthinking it.

This True-or-False question from the CUA (Certified Usability Analyst) practice exam is testing whether you can differentiate between a mental model, an implementation model, and a representation model.

Let me give you an example. Here's my mental model, as a driver, of how a car works:

  1. I press the gas pedal, which sends more gas to the engine—like putting more wood on a fire—so it speeds up.
  2. I press the brake pedal and the brakes drag the brake pads against the wheels to slow down.

I am neither mechanic nor automotive engineer, so I don't know whether my mental model is factually correct—that is, how well it overlaps with the implementation model. I'd say my mental model isn't complete—it likely omits many details of the implementation model. But as a driver, I don't need to know those details, because my inaccurate and incomplete mental model is sufficient for me to be able to drive the car. And I think that's the important point that the practice question is asking about.

So, given this True-or-False question…

Users are typically able to factually describe their own mental models.

…my interpretation is this:

  • A mental model does not have to be factual. The answer to this question is False.

Want another perspective? Here's a blog post about different types of models.


Users obviously have the information in their heads about things they interact with ( their 'mental models').

However whether they can describe this information well is another matter.

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