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ICSE 2021
Mon 17 May - Sat 5 June 2021
Wed 26 May 2021 19:10 - 19:30 at Blended Sessions Room 2 - 2.5.2. Developers: Experiments Chair(s): Sira Vegas
Thu 27 May 2021 07:10 - 07:30 at Blended Sessions Room 2 - 2.5.2. Developers: Experiments

Background: Researchers and practitioners have been using code complexity metrics for decades to predict how developers comprehend a program. While it is plausible and tempting to use them for this purpose, their validity is debated, since they rely on code properties and rarely consider particularities of human cognition.

Aims: We investigate whether and how code complexity metrics reflect difficulty of program comprehension.

Method: We conducted a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study with 19 participants observing program comprehension of short code snippets at varying complexity levels. We dissected four classes of code complexity metrics and their relationship to neuronal, behavioral, and subjective correlates of program comprehension, overall analyzing more than 41 metrics.

Results: While we could corroborate that complexity metrics can—to a limited degree—explain programmers’ cognition in program comprehension, fMRI allowed us to gain more insights into why some properties of code can be difficult to process. In particular, the code’s textual size drives programmers’ attention and vocabulary size burdens programmers’ working memory.

Conclusion: Our results provide neuro-scientific evidence that supports warnings of prior research questioning the validity of code complexity metrics and reveal factors relevant to program comprehension.

Future Work: We outline a number of follow-up experiments investigating fine-grained effects of code complexity and describe possible refinements to complexity metrics.

Conference Day
Wed 26 May

Displayed time zone: Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna change

18:50 - 19:50
2.5.2. Developers: ExperimentsJournal-First Papers / Technical Track at Blended Sessions Room 2 +12h
Chair(s): Sira VegasUniversidad Politecnica de Madrid
18:50
20m
Paper
The Mind Is a Powerful Place: How Showing Code Comprehensibility Metrics Influences Code UnderstandingTechnical Track
Technical Track
Marvin WyrichUniversity of Stuttgart, Andreas PreikschatUniversity of Stuttgart, Daniel GraziotinUniversity of Stuttgart, Stefan WagnerUniversity of Stuttgart
Pre-print Media Attached
19:10
20m
Paper
Program Comprehension and Code Complexity Metrics: An fMRI StudyACM SIGSOFT Distinguished PaperArtifact ReusableTechnical TrackArtifact Available
Technical Track
Norman PeitekLeibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Sven ApelSaarland University, Chris ParninNorth Carolina State University, André BrechmannLeibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Janet SiegmundChemnitz University of Technology
Pre-print Media Attached
19:30
20m
Paper
Comparing Block-based Programming Models for Two-armed RobotsJournal-First
Journal-First Papers
Nico RitschelThe University of British Columbia, Vladimir KovalenkoTU Delft, Reid HolmesUniversity of British Columbia, Ronald GarciaUniversity of British Columbia, David C. ShepherdVirginia Commonwealth University
Link to publication DOI Pre-print

Conference Day
Thu 27 May

Displayed time zone: Amsterdam, Berlin, Bern, Rome, Stockholm, Vienna change

06:50 - 07:50
06:50
20m
Paper
The Mind Is a Powerful Place: How Showing Code Comprehensibility Metrics Influences Code UnderstandingTechnical Track
Technical Track
Marvin WyrichUniversity of Stuttgart, Andreas PreikschatUniversity of Stuttgart, Daniel GraziotinUniversity of Stuttgart, Stefan WagnerUniversity of Stuttgart
Pre-print Media Attached
07:10
20m
Paper
Program Comprehension and Code Complexity Metrics: An fMRI StudyACM SIGSOFT Distinguished PaperArtifact ReusableTechnical TrackArtifact Available
Technical Track
Norman PeitekLeibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Sven ApelSaarland University, Chris ParninNorth Carolina State University, André BrechmannLeibniz Institute for Neurobiology, Janet SiegmundChemnitz University of Technology
Pre-print Media Attached
07:30
20m
Paper
Comparing Block-based Programming Models for Two-armed RobotsJournal-First
Journal-First Papers
Nico RitschelThe University of British Columbia, Vladimir KovalenkoTU Delft, Reid HolmesUniversity of British Columbia, Ronald GarciaUniversity of British Columbia, David C. ShepherdVirginia Commonwealth University
Link to publication DOI Pre-print