Marvin Wyrich, Lasse Merz, and Dr. Daniel Graziotin have been awarded with the ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award for their submission titled Anchoring Code Understandability Evaluations Through Task Descriptions.
The paper, presented at the 30th ACM/IEEE International Conference on Program Comprehension (ICPC 2022), reports on an investigation of a famous cognitive bias, the anchoring effect, and how it applies according to how researchers present and explain tasks to experiment participants. In particular, on how hinting that code snippets to be assessed by participants are either easy or difficult will influence the belief among participants that said snippets are, in fact, easy or difficult. The large controlled experiment found out that participants are significantly influenced by the initial scenario description in their assessment of code comprehensibility. An initial hint of hard to understand code leads participants to assess the code as harder to understand than participants who received no hint or a hint of easy to understand code. Furthermore, this effect is present in students and professionals alike.
The results will enable a higher robustness in future studies of program comprehension, and provide a warning to the software development industry to pick software metrics carefully, given a frequent absence of data that justifies their validity.
The paper, presented by Marvin Wyrich in the form of a video and a Q/A session, received also the conference's best presentation award.
Moreover, Wyrich, in his first appearance on an international conference's program committee, won a Distinguished Reviewer award for his excellent contribution as reviewer.
The Empirical Software Engineering group congratulates Lasse Merz for the success obtained with the study from his Master of Science thesis!