The Effect Of Crowding On The Reading Of Program Code For Programmers With Dyslexia

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Good program layout and consistent application of style facilitates code readability and comprehension. Appropriate use of white space, in particular vertical space, is useful for organising code into logical groupings of text. Where this style is not followed then the code manifests crowding and can inhibit comprehension. When reading natural text crowding has been recognised as disproportionately affecting the reading efficiency of dyslexic readers. We present an independent two-factorial study which examines the extent to which crowding in program code affects programmers with dyslexia. The study involved 30 participants (14 dyslexia, 16 control) reading and describing crowded and spaced versions of three Java programs. Comprehension time and accuracy were measured. An eye tracker was used to collect gaze metrics. Results are presented relating to the interaction between dyslexia and crowding. Noting the small sample size, the results show that, while there is an interaction effect on gaze metrics for some program features, the results do not suggest any significant effect whereby programmers with dyslexia are disproportionately affected by crowding in computer programs.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication2021 IEEE/ACM 29th International Conference on Program Comprehension (ICPC)
Publication statusPublished online - 16 Mar 2021


  • program comprehensio
  • code layout
  • crowding
  • dyslexia
  • eye tracking


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