Prioritizing Tasks in Code Repair: A Psychological Exploration of Computer Code

AbstractThe current study explored the influence of task prioritization on how computer programmers reviewed and edited code. Forty-five programmers recruited from Amazon Mechanical Turk downloaded and edited a computer program in C#. Programmers were given instructions to review the code and told to prioritize either the reputation, transparency, or performance aspects of the code, or were given no prioritization instruction. Code changes and remarks about their changes to the code were analyzed with a between-within multivariate analysis of variance. Results indicate prioritizing an aspect of the code leads to increased performance on that aspect, but with deficits to other aspects of the code. Managers may want programmers to prioritize certain aspects of code depending on the stage of development of the software (i.e., testing, rollout, etc.). However, managers should also be cognizant of the effects task prioritization has on programmer perceptions of the code as a whole.

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