Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Computer Science

First Advisor

Dr. Brian Dorn

Second Advisor

Dr. Briana Morrison

Third Advisor

Dr. Christine Toh


Static and dynamic type systems have long been a point of contention in the programming language wars. Yet, for many years, arguments on either side were drawn from personal experience and not empirical evidence. A challenge for researchers is that the usability of language constructs is difficult to quantify, especially since usability can be interpreted in many ways. By one definition, language usability can be measured in terms of the level of cognitive load imposed on a developer. This can be done through questionnaires, but ultimately user responses are subject to bias. In recent years, eye-tracking has been shown to be an effective means of measuring cognitive load via direct physiological measures. Towards the goal of measuring type system usability, we present a user study in which participants completed programming tasks in Java and Groovy. This thesis explored the use of the Index of Cognitive Activity (ICA) as a cognitive load measurement tool and considered novices and experts separately in the analysis. We found ICA to be an ineffective means of measuring type system usability and we cannot say conclusively whether it can be generally applied to programming tasks. Despite this, our results contradict previous studies as we found type system did not affect success rate, task completion time, or perceived task difficulty.


A Thesis Presented to the College of Information Science and Technology and the Faculty of the Graduate College In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Science in Computer Science University of Nebraska. Copyright 2018 Ian Vaughn Koeppe.