October 3 – 7 , 2022, Dagstuhl Seminar 22402

Foundations for a New Perspective of Understanding Programming


André Brechmann (Leibniz-Institut für Neurobiologie – Magdeburg, DE)
Bonita Sharif (University of Nebraska – Lincoln, US)
Janet Siegmund (TU Chemnitz, DE)
Westley Weimer (University of Michigan – Ann Arbor, US)

For support, please contact

Simone Schilke for administrative matters

Michael Gerke for scientific matters

Dagstuhl Reports

As part of the mandatory documentation, participants are asked to submit their talk abstracts, working group results, etc. for publication in our series Dagstuhl Reports via the Dagstuhl Reports Submission System.


List of Participants
Shared Documents
Dagstuhl Seminar Schedule [pdf]


For a long time, researchers have investigated how people read and write program code on their computers and talk about code with one another. This way, researchers identified necessary skills, education, and practices to acquire expertise and perform software development duties. While the results of these investigations are valuable, they are still scarce, and often, these investigations are based on too different assumptions. Thus, we are still unable to devise and validate a scientific theory of program comprehension, which would be an important step to design support for developers that is tailored to their cognitive needs. To succeed, we need techniques to shed more light on how programmers think. To this end, we need to look beyond computer-science research.

Specifically, in the field of psychology and cognitive neuroscience, considerable progress has been made in building theories of cognitive processes. Important enabling technologies were eye tracking, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), electroencephalography (EEG), and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS). These methods have revolutionized the understanding of cognitive processes and are routinely used in various disciplines.

With the recent emergence of these methods in computer science, now is the time to provide a unified forum for discussing and designing high-quality research studies, models, and methods for investigating the cognition of programmers through biometrics and neuro-imaging devices. This seminar supports researchers using a new set of techniques that modernize classic approaches to program comprehension and human computer interaction by exploiting new experimental designs that are informed by advances in cognitive neuroscience. This will be the first Dagstuhl Seminar organized around this theme.

To define a unifying umbrella for these kind of studies, we will look at current studies and discuss key methodological challenges for these studies. In break out groups, we will discuss solutions on how these challenges can be addressed and what kind of questions can actually be answered with this new technology. As practical result of this seminar, we aim at a roadmap on how research on understanding the programmer can be moved forward in a directed and systematic way.

Motivation text license
  Creative Commons BY 4.0
  André Brechmann, Bonita Sharif, Janet Siegmund, Westley Weimer, and Norman Peitek


  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software Engineering


  • Programming methodology
  • Programming education
  • Program comprehension
  • Neuro-imaging
  • Eye tracking
  • Human cognition


In the series Dagstuhl Reports each Dagstuhl Seminar and Dagstuhl Perspectives Workshop is documented. The seminar organizers, in cooperation with the collector, prepare a report that includes contributions from the participants' talks together with a summary of the seminar.


Download overview leaflet (PDF).

Dagstuhl's Impact

Please inform us when a publication was published as a result from your seminar. These publications are listed in the category Dagstuhl's Impact and are presented on a special shelf on the ground floor of the library.


Furthermore, a comprehensive peer-reviewed collection of research papers can be published in the series Dagstuhl Follow-Ups.