Measuring affective states from technical debt: A psychoempirical software engineering experiment

09/22/2020 ∙ by Jesper Olsson, et al. ∙ 0

Software engineering is a human activity. Despite this, human aspects are under-represented in technical debt research, perhaps because they are challenging to valorize. This study's objective was to investigate the relationship between technical debt and affective states (feelings, emotions, and moods) from software practitioners. Forty participants from twelve companies took part in a mixed-methods design, consisting of a repeated-measures experiment, a survey employing a questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. The statistical analysis shows that different design smells negatively or positively impact affective states. From the qualitative data, it is clear that technical debt activates a substantial portion of the emotional room and is psychologically taxing. Further, reactions to technical debt appear to fall in different levels of maturity. We argue that human aspects in software engineering are an essential factor to consider, as it can result in, e.g., procrastination, apprehension, and burnout.

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