Cognitive Biases in Programming

Yash Ranadive
Oct 15, 2017 · 3 min read

As developers, we’re familiar with the various problems that interfere with our productivity. But often we overlook the broad picture. Some subtle, some huge, some you can do something about, and some you just, well, can’t.

These all combine to form a sort of internal feedback loop that can lead to lost hours of productivity, bugs, and just all-around frustration. If we can minimize the impact of one or two of these, we can break the cycle and neutralize the rest. Here’s a list of 5 cognitive biases you should be aware of while programming:

Hyperbolic Discounting

Going for an immediate payoff instead of a delayed larger one

IKEA Effect

Overvaluing your own solutions to a problem, and thus in contrast undervalue other solutions

Premature Optimization

Optimizing before you know that you need to

Planning Fallacy

Optimistically underestimating the time required to complete a task

“The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time.”

Recency Bias

Placing higher value on recent events than ones that occurred further in the past

We can never completely eliminate our biases, by being aware of how it is affecting us, we can somewhat mitigate the problems it causes.

Thanks to Rob Trame for helping me with this. Image courtesy clipartfest.com.

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Yash Ranadive

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Engineering @Facebook. Founder @GrepPage. Data Eng. @Lookout. Web, Search, 3D. Dog Parent. https://evidanary.github.io

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