Visual attention and representation switching during Java program debugging: a study using the restricted focus viewer

Romero, Pablo, Cox, Richard, du Boulay, Benedict and Lutz, Rudi (2002) Visual attention and representation switching during Java program debugging: a study using the restricted focus viewer. In: Diagrammatic Representation and Inference : Second International Conference, Diagrams 2002 Callaway Gardens, GA, USA, April 18-20, 2002. Proceedings, Callaway Gardens, GA, USA.

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Java program debugging was investigated in programmers who used a software debugging environment (SDE) that provided concurrently displayed, adjacent, multiple and linked representations consisting of the program code, a functional visualisation of the program, and its output. A modified version of the Restricted Focus Viewer (RFV)[#!bla:00!#] - a visual attention tracking system - was employed to measure the degree to which each of the representations was used, and to record switches between representations. Other measures included debugging performance (number of bugs identified, the order in which they were identified, bug discovery latencies, etc.). The aim of this investigation was to address questions such as `To what extent do programmers use each type of representation?' and `Are particular patterns of representational use associated with superior debugging performance?'. A within-subject design, and comparison of performance under (matched) RFV/no-RFV task conditions, allowed the use of the RFV as an attention-tracking tool to be validated in the programming domain. The results also provide tentative evidence that superior debugging using multiple-representation SDE's tends to be associated with a) the predominant use of the program code representation, and b) frequent switches between the code representation and the visualisation of the program execution.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Additional Information: Originality: This was one of the first papers to report on studying programmer behaviour when using complex software development environments by means of restricted focus viewer (RFV) technology. It also reported results which for the first time validated the use of RFV technology in the programming domain. Rigour: A within-subject comparison of performance under matched RFV/no-RFV task conditions was carried out. Significance: RFV technology is a cheap and convenient alternative to use eye-tracking equipment. However, because it alters the conditions under which participants actually work there is the question of whether results obtained using it are artifacts of the experimental situation. This study (which has since been replicated by others) showed the validity of the use of the RFV in this domain.
Schools and Departments: School of Engineering and Informatics > Informatics
Depositing User: Pablo Romero
Date Deposited: 06 Feb 2012 20:04
Last Modified: 20 Aug 2019 15:05
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