Support for "three hypotheses!"

Posted in programmer productivity at 11:46 pm by ducky

In this post, I introduced the idea of writing down three hypotheses for what a bug might be. In this recent post, I theorized that writing them down might reduce confirmation bias. This was all just conjecture, however.

I just discovered some confirmation in Klahr, D. and K. Dunbar (1988). Dual space search during scientific reasoning. Cognitive Science 12, 1-55. They did one experiment where they gave people a programmable toy and asked them to figure out the semantics of one of the programming keys. They then did a second experiment where they asked a new set of subjects to come up with as many hypotheses as possible for what the key did, and then gave them the toy and asked them to figure out the semantics of that key. The subjects were much better/faster at figuring it out after verbalizing a bunch of hypotheses than without verbalizing. It took the first set more than three times as long to figure it out than the second set.

Now, I don’t think this paper says how long people spent on coming up with hypotheses — all the PDFs I found of this paper were missing pages — but it would seem odd if it was more than the time saved and they wouldn’t mention it.


  1. Best Webfoot Forward said,

    March 28, 2008 at 9:35 am

    […] finally got my hands on the dead-trees (i.e. uncorrupted) version of the Klahr/Dunbar article that I posted about earlier, and it didn’t say anywhere how long people in the hypothesizing group spent on coming up […]