Archives for the month of: March, 2012

My project to find out whether computer programming languages affect the brain is slowly coming together. The best news is that I’ve got my hands on a very quick version of an IQ test, which can be administered in 15 minutes, which means that I can cut the whole experiment down from 50 to 30 minutes in total. Hopefully that will make it even easier for people to take part.

As a reminder, I’m looking for young coders in these age groups:

  • 8-11 year olds who have been coding regularly for at least 6 months
  • 14-16 year olds who have been coding for at least 3 years
  • 21-25 year old professionals who have been coding for 8 years or more

Any programming language is OK, but it’s important that you are not bilingual (read the information sheet for details).  Here’s what taking part will involve:

Taking part in the experiment

  • We can do this at your home, or meet you at one of 2 locations in central London (either my university or my place of work, which is a children’s charity)
  • Taking part will take 30 minutes. I’ll schedule a time to suit you.
  • First we’ll do a short IQ test – this is only so that I can make sure that the people I compare you to (who are not coders) have roughly the same IQ
  • Then we’ll run the experiment on a laptop. It’s pretty simple, you just have to respond to what you see on the screen, as quickly and accurately as possible.

I’m hoping to complete all of the experiments by the end of April, so that I can then recruit and test a control group. If you’ve already signed up, I’ll be in touch with suggested times very soon.

If you run computer clubs for kids or just know young people who fit the bill, please point ’em my way or get in touch.

As I’ve written before, I’m interested to find out whether regularly using computer programming languages change the brain in the same way that being bilingual does. The good news is that I’ve now had ethics approval to run a small experiment to find out – and I’m looking for children, teenagers and adults to take part.

First up, I’m looking for three small groups of developers, ideally London-ish-based (because I don’t have any funding and I’m a student so massive train fares aren’t really an option):

  • 8 – 11 year olds who have been programming regularly for at least 6 months
  • 14 – 16 year olds who have been programming regularly for 3 – 6 years
  • 21 – 25 year old professional programmers who have been programming for at least 8 years and programme at least 5 days a week

Unfortunately, if you are bilingual – in that you speak two or more languages most days, for example, a different language at home than at school or work – you can’t take part in the study. This is because we already know that the effect we are looking for is found in bilinguals – so if we found it in you, we wouldn’t know whether this was because you programme computers or because you are bilingual (or both!).

To sign up as a developer, please read this information sheet about the project and sign up here (or if you are under 18, please get a parent or guardian to do so on your behalf). Massive thanks to Josh and Emma at Young Rewired State for helping me to contact young coders (they’re fundraising at the moment, you should help if you can!).

Secondly, I am looking for control group participants who are not computer programmers and am not bilingual. If you are an education professional or someone else who can help me to access a group of children aged 8-11 and or 14-16 in London, I’d love to hear from you – you could leave a comment or mail me here: hwright04 AT

I’m pretty excited that this is actually happening, thank you to everyone who has helped so far (especially Paul, Duncan and Alex for letting me pick their rather substantial brains). As always if anyone has any suggestions about papers I should read or people I should talk to, I’m all ears.