From anecdote to evidence: the relationship between personality and need for cognition of developers

Daniel Russo*, Andres R. Masegosa, Klaas Jan Stol

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


There is considerable anecdotal evidence suggesting that software engineers enjoy engaging in solving puzzles and other cognitive efforts. A tendency to engage in and enjoy effortful thinking is referred to as a person’s ‘need for cognition.’ In this article we study the relationship between software engineers’ personality traits and their need for cognition. Through a large-scale sample study of 483 respondents we collected data to capture the six ‘bright’ personality traits of the HEXACO model of personality, and three ‘dark’ personality traits. Data were analyzed using several methods including a multiple Bayesian linear regression analysis. The results indicate that ca. 33% of variation in developers’ need for cognition can be explained by personality traits. The Bayesian analysis suggests four traits to be of particular interest in predicting need for cognition: openness to experience, conscientiousness, honesty-humility, and emotionality. Further, we also find that need for cognition of software engineers is, on average, higher than in the general population, based on a comparison with prior studies. Given the importance of human factors for software engineers’ performance in general, and problem solving skills in particular, our findings suggest several implications for recruitment, working behavior, and teaming.

Original languageEnglish
Article number71
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 2022

Bibliographical note

© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2022.


  • Bayesian statistics
  • Behavioral software engineering
  • Need for cognition
  • Personality traits


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