Cognitive Perspectives on the Role of Naming in Computer Programs

  • Ben Liblit ,
  • Andrew Begel ,
  • Eve Sweetser

Proceedings of the 18th Annual Psychology of Programming Interest Group Workshop |

Programming a computer is a complex, cognitively rich process. This paper examines ways in which human cognition is reflected in the text of computer programs. We concentrate on naming: the assignment of identifying labels to programmatic constructs. Naming is arbitrary, yet programmers do not select names arbitrarily. Rather, programmers choose and use names in regular, systematic ways that reflect deep cognitive and linguistic influences. This, in turn, allows names to carry semantic cues that aid in program understanding and support the larger software development process.