This blog is going to be in two parts, the first will focus on the question of do emotions affect the quality of testing. The second will look at ways in which we can gather information about how we feel about the product we are testing to see if there is any value in capturing this information.
I have an amateur interest in psychology and how some of the ideas and thoughts from this area of science can be used in software testing. I was reading ‘The Psychology of Problem Solving’ by Janet E. Davidson & Robert J. Sternberg and it had a section on how emotions affect the way we think and focus.
So I decided to tweet a question based on some of the information I had read:
Emotions and #Testing:-Do we find more bugs when we are in a bad mood? Psychology research shows we are more negative when in bad mood.
It would be interesting to have feedback from #testing community on this - Does this mean a good tester has to be a grumpy so and so... :o)
It was not long before I started to receive replies on this.
@Rob_Lamber: @steveo1967 I don't really attribute negativity to being good at finding bugs. Positive attitude, passion, inclination...not negativity
@nitinpurswani I @steveo1967 i cannot think when i am in bad mood and i guess sapient testers think
@ruudcox @steveo1967 This article might help: Mood Literally Affects How We See World. http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=100974
This turned in to a lively debate on which mood is better for testing.
After reading various articles there appeared to be some common ground on how we think and see things based upon our emotions and mood.
Looking at the article suggested by @ruudox this suggested that when in a good mood we can see the whole picture and when in an unhappy mood we narrow our focus.
This appears to be backed up by research from Foless & Schwarz
Individuals in a sad mood are likely to use a systematic, data driven bottom-up strategy of information processing, with considerable attention to detail In contrast, individuals in a happy mood are likely to rely on pre-existing general knowledge structures, using a top-down heuristic strategy of information processing, with less attention to detail (foless & Schwarz, 1999;).
This now leads to some complex dilemmas, and the whole point of this blog.
Which mood is best for someone whose is a professional tester?
Which mood is more than likely to find more bugs when testing?
What other influences can affect our ability to test well?
My thoughts indicate from the information and research I have read that to be really good at testing and finding defects we need to be in a sad or unhappy mood.
Research concludes that when in a sad or unhappy mood we are more than likely to focus in on the task and step though in a data driven way. When happy we are more than likely to see the whole of the picture and look at the task from a top down approach.
Now in my opinion both of these traits are needed to be excellent testers. So do testers need to have split personalities that they can switch on or off?
The point made by @nitinpurswani about being in a bad mood stops him thinking and that to be a sapient tester he needs to think. This got me thinking and I asked him a question back.
@nitinpurswani I like that idea. However if you're in a bad mood with what u are #testing would it make you want to break it more?
My thought behind this is that if something is annoying me or irritating me I feel I am more than likely work harder to find out why it is annoying me. I become deeply focused on the problem in front of me. Does this mean I am in a bad mood? Not necessarily so – it could be I am annoyed at what I am testing but not in a bad mood in general.
When in a happy mood when testing it is easy to just let things go, we unconsciously think well that is not too much of problem we can forget about it. This is a dangerous attitude to have as a tester because this simple little problem can come back to be huge problems. Someone in an unhappy mood is more than likely to investigate why this thing is annoying and find the underlining cause.
@Rob_Lambert made a very valid point that there are environmental issues that could come into play. How many testers when testing listen to music? Rob suggested that the type or style of music you are listening to can influence the mood you are in and as a side effect the way you are thinking. I had not thought about this very much but going deeper than this – if you are working in a open office and everyone around you is having a laugh and joking would this make your testing better or worse? What if a tester and a developer are having a heated debate about something that has just been tested? Will this influence your testing?
Does any of this article back up my earlier tweet that testers need to be grumpy so and sos?
However I think this view is too simplistic. I am often asked about testers and how they are different from developers. (There is still a big drive within testing that developer and tester can be the same person and be able to switch between the different roles). I have a feeling that some of the best testers can switch between different psychological emotional states when testing. They have the best of both worlds. Able to remain focused when something is bugging them and then when they have solved what is bugging them able to switch to a whole picture view of the system they are testing.
When I started to write this article I thought it would be very simple to come to a conclusion about how emotions can affect our ability to test and what is the best mood to be in to get the best out of testing. It has proven more difficult than I thought and I still have not come to any firm conclusion about which is the best.
The one interesting point that should be made is that as professional testers we need to be aware of our emotions and how they can affect the quality of the testing we are doing. Part 2 of this blog will be looking at how we can capture our emotion and feelings about the product we are testing and see if this could provide useful information.