The Effect of Perceptual Load on Performance within IDE in People with ADHD Symptoms

Vseslav Kasatskii, Agnia Serheyuk, Anastasiia Serova, Sergey Titov, and Timofey Bryksin

July, 2023. Published in the proceedings of AC'23 (—).

Abstract. In this paper, we describe the research on how perceptual load can affect programming performance in people with symptoms of Attention Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). We asked developers to complete the Barkley Deficits in Executive Functioning Scale, which indicates the presence and severity levels of ADHD symptoms. After that, participants solved mentally active programming tasks (coding) and monotonous ones (debugging) in the integrated development environment in high perceptual load modes (visually noisy) and low perceptual load modes (visually clear). The development environment was augmented with the plugin we wrote to track efficiency metrics, i.e. time, speed, and activity. We found that the perceptual load does affect programmers' efficiency. For mentally active tasks, the time of inserting the first character was shorter and the overall speed was higher in the low perceptual load mode. For monotonous tasks, the total time for the solution was less for the low perceptual load mode. Also, we found that the effect of perceptual load on programmers' efficiency differs between those with and without ADHD symptoms. This effect has a specificity: depending on efficiency measures and ADHD symptoms, one or another level of perceptual load might be beneficial. Our findings support the idea of behavioral assessment of users for providing appropriate accommodation for the workforce with special needs.

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