PPIG 2005 - 17th Annual Workshop
Short-Term Effects of Graphical versus Textual Visualisation of Variables on Program Perception
Seppo Nevalainen, Jorma Sajaniemi
Abstract: The empirical evaluation of program visualisation has been based mostly on observations of long-term effects of the program visualisation tools, while possible short-term effects of the visualisations and their relation to the long-term effects have been elided. In order to study short-term effects of visualisation of variables in a context where the long-term effects are already known, we conducted a controlled experiment, in which we investigated how a person targets her visual attention and what kind of a mental model she constructs, when variables are presented either textually or graphically. The results indicate clear differences in the targeting of visual attention between the visualisation tools: With the graphical tool, the participants targeted their visual attention to variables much more than with the textual tool. With the graphical tool, the increase of visual attention to variables increased the proportion of high-level information in program summaries and decreased the proportion of low-level code-related information.