PPIG 1999 - 11th Annual Workshop
Mental Representation and Imagery in Program Comprehension
Raquel Navarro-Prieto, José J. Cañas
Abstract: This paper studies the role of imagery in program comprehension. With this goal we investigated whether theories of mental models from Psychology of Programming (e.g., Pennington’s Two Stages Theory) could be expanded to account for the effect of imagery. Given the basic research in image processing, our hypothesis is that imagery would allow a quicker access to the functional (Data Flow) information of programs. Then, Visual Programming Languages should allow for quicker construction of a mental representation based on Data Flow relationships of a program than procedural languages. To test this hypothesis we ran an experiment where we accessed the mental model of C and spreadsheet programmers in different program comprehension situations. The results showed evidence that the spreadsheet programmers developed Data Flow based mental representations in all situations while C programmers seemed to access to a Control Flow based mental representation first.