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Abstract

Our understanding of factors influencing the effectiveness of software-development processes has evolved in recent times. However, few research studies have furthered our understanding of the cognitive factors underlying software development activities and their impact on performance and affective outcomes. To some extent, this may be attributed to the paucity of measurement approaches available for cognitive factors. In this study, we fill this gap by developing a measurement approach to capture and evaluate the quality of mental models. We investigate the efficacy of mental models in software development using the said approach. We assessed mental model quality by statistically comparing a software developer’s mental model with a referent model derived from multiple experts. Results of a controlled laboratory experiment suggest that a software developer’s mental model quality is a determinant of software quality. Further, we found this effect to be consistent across software development tasks of varying complexities. These results not only shed light on the impact of mental models in software development, but also have significant implications for stimulating future research on cognitive factors influencing software development practices.

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