Gaze strategies can reveal the impact of source code features on the cognitive load of novice programmers

Andreas Wulff-Jensen*, Kevin Ruder, Evangelia Triantafyllou, Luis Emilio Bruni

*Corresponding author

Research output: Contribution to book/anthology/report/conference proceedingArticle in proceedingResearchpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

As shown by several studies, programmers’ readability of source code is influenced by its structural and the textual features. In order to assess the importance of these features, we conducted an eye-tracking experiment with programming students. To assess the readability and comprehensibility of code snippets, the test subjects were exposed to four different snippets containing or missing structural and/or textual elements. To assure that all subjects were at an equivalent level of expertise, their programming skills were also evaluated. During the eye-tracking experiment, the subjects were also asked to give a readability and comprehensibility score to each snippet. The absence of textual features showed to increase the average fixation duration. This indicates that for the test subjects the textual features were more essential for the comprehension of the code. Gaze pattern analysis revealed less ordered patterns in the absence of structural features compared to the absence of textual features.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationAdvances in Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering - Proceedings of the AHFE 2018 International Conference on Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering : Proceedings of the AHFE 2018 International Conference on Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering, July 21–25, 2018, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida USA
Number of pages10
PublisherSpringer
Publication date1 Jan 2019
Pages91-100
ISBN (Print)978-3-319-94865-2
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-319-94866-9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2019
EventAHFE International Conference on Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering, 2018 - Orlando, United States
Duration: 21 Jul 201825 Jul 2018

Conference

ConferenceAHFE International Conference on Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering, 2018
CountryUnited States
CityOrlando
Period21/07/201825/07/2018
SeriesAdvances in Intelligent Systems and Computing
Volume775
ISSN2194-5357

Keywords

  • Code features
  • Eye-tracking
  • Programmer
  • Programming
  • Readability

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    Wulff-Jensen, A., Ruder, K., Triantafyllou, E., & Bruni, L. E. (2019). Gaze strategies can reveal the impact of source code features on the cognitive load of novice programmers. In Advances in Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering - Proceedings of the AHFE 2018 International Conference on Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering: Proceedings of the AHFE 2018 International Conference on Neuroergonomics and Cognitive Engineering, July 21–25, 2018, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Studios, Orlando, Florida USA (pp. 91-100). Springer. Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing, Vol.. 775 https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-94866-9_9