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Cognitive Bias and Software Testing: An ongoing exploration April 7, 2014

Posted by Peter Varhol in Software development.
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Let me explain how this story started for me. I’ve always enjoyed the books by Michael Lewis, and I picked up Moneyball around the middle of 2011. The revelation I obtained was that “all baseball experts were wrong; they were biased in how they evaluated talent”. That bias intrigued me. Later, I read a profile done by Michael Lewis of Daniel Kahneman called “The King of Human Error”.

Then I read Kahneman’s career capstone book, Thinking, Fast and Slow. It provided the theoretical foundation for what became my most significant series of presentations over the last couple of years.

Moneyball gave me the idea of working this presentation around bias in building and running testing and agile teams, and in being a team member. I started giving versions of this presentation in mid-2012, and continued for well over a year. I would like to think that it’s been well-received. My title was Moneyball and the Science of Building Great Teams.

My collaborator Gerie Owen saw this presentation a couple of times, and realized that bias also applies to the practice of testing. We are likely biased in how we devise testing strategies, build and execute test cases, collect data, and evaluate results. She rolled many of these same concepts into a presentation called How Did I Miss That Bug? The Role of Cognitive Bias in Testing.

I think this is an important topic for the testing and ADLM community in general, because it has the potential to change how we practice and manage. So in a multi-part set of posts over the coming months, I would like to explore cognitive bias and its role in software testing, agile development, team building, and other aspects of the application development lifecycle.

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