Biases and Differences in Code Review using Medical Imaging and Eye-Tracking: Genders, Humans, and Machines
Code review is a critical step in modern software quality assurance, yet it is vulnerable to human biases.
Previous studies have clarified the extent of the problem, particularly regarding biases against the authors of code,but no consensus understanding has emerged.
Advances in medical imaging are increasingly applied to software engineering, supporting grounded neurobiological explorations of computing activities, including the review, reading, and writing of source code.
In this paper, we present the results of a controlled experiment using both medical imaging and also eye tracking to investigate the neurological correlates of biases and differences between genders of humans and machines (e.g., automated program repair tools) in code review.
We find that men and women conduct code reviews differently, in ways that are measurable and supported by behavioral, eye-tracking and medical imaging data.
We also find biases in how humans review code as a function of its apparent author, when controlling for code quality.
In addition to advancing our fundamental understanding of how cognitive biases relate to the code review process, the results may inform subsequent training and tool design to reduce bias.
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