Happy software developers solve problems better: psychological measurements in empirical software engineering
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For more than thirty years, it has been claimed that a way to improve software developers’ productivity and software quality is to focus on people and to provide incentives to make developers satisfied and happy. This claim has rarely been verified in software engineering research, which faces an additional challenge in comparison to more traditional engineering fields: software development is an intellectual activity and is dominated by often-neglected human factors (called human aspects in software engineering research). Among the many skills required for software development, developers must possess high analytical problem-solving skills and creativity for the software construction process. According to psychology research, affective states—emotions and moods—deeply influence the cognitive processing abilities and performance of workers, including creativity and analytical problem solving. Nonetheless, little research has investigated the correlation between the affective states, creativity, and analytical problem-solving performance of programmers. This article echoes the call to employ psychological measurements in software engineering research. We report a study with 42 participants to investigate the relationship between the affective states, creativity, and analytical problem-solving skills of software developers. The results offer support for the claim that happy developers are indeed better problem solvers in terms of their analytical abilities. The following contributions are made by this study: (1) providing a better understanding of the impact of affective states on the creativity and analytical problem-solving capacities of developers, (2) introducing and validating psychological measurements, theories, and concepts of affective states, creativity, and analytical-problem-solving skills in empirical software engineering, and (3) raising the need for studying the human factors of software engineering by employing a multidisciplinary viewpoint.
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