PPIG 2021 - 32nd Annual Workshop
Towards Grounded Theory Perspectives of Cognitive Load in Software Engineering
Daniel Helgesson, Per Runeson
Abstract: Background: The socio-technical characteristic of software engineering is acknowledged by many, while the technical side still dominates research. As software engineering is a human-intensive activity, the cognitive side of software engineering needs more exploration when trying to improve its efficiency. Aim: The aim of this study is to increase the understanding of the impact of cognitive load in software engineering. Our ultimate goal is to theorize the knowledge and thereby reveal opportunities to make software engineering more efficient for companies and compelling for the developers to engage in. Method: We synthesize knowledge, using a grounded theory approach, from our empirical observations and literature on cognitive load in software engineering, using cognitive load theory as a stepping stone and theoretical filter. Results: We present a grounded theory of cognitive load in software engineering, emerging from the analysis, which classifies cognitive load drivers into eight perspectives – task, environment, information, tool, communication, interruption, structure and temporal – each of which is further detailed. Conclusion: We intend to use this theory as a starting point for further generation of theory to be used in the design of software engineering tools, methods and organizational structures to improve efficiency and developer satisfaction by reducing the cognitive load.