Cognition, Technology & Work

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 489–504 | Cite as

Do older programmers perform as well as young ones? Exploring the intermediate effects of stress and programming experience

  • Ned Kock
  • Murad Moqbel
  • Yusun Jung
  • Thant Syn
Original Article


There is a widespread perception that older adults are underperformers when compared with younger adults in tasks that involve intense use of technology, such as computer programming. Building on schema theory, we developed a research model that contradicts this perception. To provide an initial test of the model, we conducted a computer programming experiment involving 140 student participants majoring in technology-related areas with ages ranging from 19 to 54 years. The participants were asked to develop, under some time pressure, a simple software application. The results of our analyses suggest that age was positively associated with programming experience and perceived stress, that programming experience was positively associated with programming performance, and that perceived stress was negatively associated with programming performance. A moderating effect analysis suggests that as programming experience increased, the association between perceived stress and programming performance weakened; going from strongly negative toward neutral. This happened even as age was controlled for. When taken together, these results suggest that the widespread perception that older adults are underperformers is unwarranted. With enough programming experience, older programmers generally perform no better or worse than young ones.


Age Computer programming Laboratory experiment Structural equation modeling Factor-based PLS 


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© Springer-Verlag London Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of International Business and Technology StudiesTexas A&M International UniversityLaredoUSA
  2. 2.Management Information Systems DepartmentUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  3. 3.Division of International Business and Technology StudiesTexas A&M International UniversityLaredoUSA

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