Redefining Mental Models Through Catholic Social Teaching

By: Lauren DeVeau

February 2, 2015

Responding to Ebola: Solidarity and the Common Good

Our mental models are often our greatest barrier. Our pride, fear, and indifference impede us from building relationships and finding new solutions. In his lecture, “Lessons from Ebola toward a Post-2015 Strategy for Pandemic Responses,” Dr. Jim Kim discussed the pivotal role that change in behavior and mental models played in providing treatment to patients with Ebola.

While mental models assist us with understanding history and society, they are often, as we are, flawed. Mental models confine us to a specific set of standards and a way of thinking, resulting in what Kim calls "low aspirations." These low aspirations draw us inward and away from solidarity with others.

Catholic social teaching calls us out of our individual mental models and towards a community built on mutual respect and dialogue. It also reminds us that the realities of today, particularly poverty, result from tragic historical events which have violently been imposed on the poor, preventing them from finding the path of economic and social development (Centiesimus Annus, 28).

Both Kim and Catholic social teaching discuss the importance of integration of development. Too often economic development has been the centerpiece, providing success for only a few. Effective development needs to be integrated and well rounded, “promoting the good of every man and of the whole man” (Populorum Progressio, 15). There is a direct correlation between heath care and economic development. Studies have shown that countries in Africa who received better health care saw a 24 percent increase in economic income.

Practicing development from an integrated approach not only produces sustainable results, it also requires the involvement of many parties. According to Kim “the most promising potential solution for our future is to bring worlds together, that work on the basis of very different mental models.” The combination of many mental models has the potential to create something we could have never dreamed of before.

Catholic social teaching and Kim remind us we are not made to function in isolated silos, but in community and interdependence with one another. This interdependence leads us to an accountability to act toward finding the solutions to create a world where all people live a fully human life (Populorum Progresio, 47).

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