Empirical studies of programming language learnability and usability have thus far depended on indirect measures of human cognitive performance, attempting to capture what is at it's essence a purely cognitive exercise through various indicators of comprehension, such as the correctness of coding tasks or the time spent working out the meaning of code and producing acceptable solutions. Understanding program comprehension is essential to understanding the inherent complexity of programming languages, and ultimately, having a measure of mental effort based on direct observation of the brain at work will illuminate the nature of the work of programming.
While the technology that allows direct observation of the brain's electrical activity has been used by clinicians for high-level diagnostics of brain disorders for over 80 years, the recent decades have seen a resurgence of interest as neuroscientists develop and refine models of cognition and associate them with detectable indicators of brain activity. We provide evidence of direct observation of the cognitive effort associated with programming tasks, through a carefully constructed empirical study using a cross-section of undergraduate computer science students and an inexpensive, off-the-shelf brain-computer interface device. This first of a kind study shows the role of expertise in programming language comprehension, draws conclusions about the observed indicators of cognitive effort using recent cognitive theories, and discusses directions for future work that is now possible.
|Commitee:||Bouvier, Dennis, Mayer, Gary|
|School:||Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville|
|School Location:||United States -- Illinois|
|Source:||MAI 53/03M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Keywords:||Brain-computer interfaces, Programming language usability|
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