Visual Attention Analysis During Program Debugging Using Virtual Reality Eye Tracker

  • Chun-Chia WangEmail author
  • Jason C. Hung
  • Shih-Cheng Wang
  • Yueh-Min Huang
Conference paper
Part of the Lecture Notes in Computer Science book series (LNCS, volume 11937)


The immersion of virtual reality (VR) has transcended the existing experience of multimedia teaching. This paper aims to design a virtual reality eye tracker device to analyze the cognitive process of program debugging by adopting virtual reality technology to build a 3D code rendering system and, at the same time, using eye tracking technology to study visual attention as well as to analyze and compare the differences in internal behavioral cognition in terms of program debugging. This paper has 32 students as participants who have studied C++ programming language courses for more than one year in the department of computer science. With Unity 3D development tool, the experiment creates a virtual classroom scene and C++ programming language code. The participants’ eye movements are recorded by an eye tracker device integrated in a Head-Mounted Display (HMD). The eye movement defines the regions of interest (ROIs) according to the division of the program’s function, and the difference in visual attention between various ROIs in the code is discussed when the participant performs the program debugging task. The finding results are expected to improve the dilemma of the existing programming teaching, so that the instructors can provide appropriate teaching aids for students to achieve the purpose of programming teaching and improving the students’ programming competence.


Virtual reality Eye movement analysis Program debugging Visual behavior 


  1. 1.
    Liaw, S.S., Huang, H.M., Lai, C.M.: A study of virtual reality and problem-based learning applied in mobile medical education. Chin. J. Sci. Educ. 19(3), 237–256 (2011)Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Xu, S., Rajlich, V.: Cognitive process during program debugging. In: Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference on Cognitive Informatics (ICCE 2014), pp. 176–182 (2004)Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Murphy, L., Lewandowski, G., McCauley, R., Simon, B., Thomas, L., Zander, C.: Debugging: the good, the bad, and the quirky—a qualitative analysis of novices’ strategies. ACM SIGCSE Bull. 40(1), 163–167 (2008)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. 4.
    Renumol, V.G., Janakiram, D., Jayaprakash, S.: Identification of cognitive processes of effective and ineffective students during computer programming. ACM Trans. Comput. Educ. 10(3), 1–21 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Benander, A.C., Benander, B.A.: An empirical analysis of debugging performance—differences between iterative and recursive constructs. Syst. Softw. 54, 17–28 (2000)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 6.
    Wiedenbeck, S., Fix, V., Scholtz, J.: Characteristics of the mental representations of novice and expert programmers: an empirical study. Int. J. Man-Mach. Stud. 39(5), 793–812 (1993)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Sander, M.S., McCormick, E.J.: Human factors in engineering and design. McGraw-Hill, New York (1987)Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Just, M.A., Carpenter, P.A.: Eye fixations and cognitive processes. Cogn. Psychol. 8, 441–480 (1976)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Rayner, K.: Eye movements in reading and information processing: 20 years of research. Psychol. Bull. 124(3), 372 (1998)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Mayer, R.E.: Unique contributions of eye-tracking research to the study of learning with graphics. Learn. Instr. 20(2), 167–171 (2010)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Tsai, M.J., Hou, H.T., Lai, M.L., Liu, W.Y., Yang, F.Y.: Visual attention for solving multiple-choice science problem: an eye-tracking analysis. Comput. Educ. 58, 375–385 (2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Chen, H.C., Lai, H.D., Chiu, F.C.: Eye tracking technology for learning and education. Res. Educ. Sci. 4, 39–68 (2010)Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Tsai, J.L., Yen, M.H., Wang, C.A.: Eye movement recording and the application in research of reading Chinese. Res. Appl. Psychol. 28, 91–104 (2005)Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Temkin, B., Acosta, E., Hatfield, P., Onal, E., Tong, A.: Web-based three-dimensional virtual body structures: W3D-VBS. J. Am. Med. Inf. Assoc. 9(5), 425–436 (2002)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Hoffman, H., Murray, M., Curlee, R., Fritchle, A.: Anatomic visualizeR: teaching and learning anatomy with virtual reality. Inf. Technol. Med. 1, 205–218 (2001)Google Scholar
  16. 16.
    Brenton, H., Hernandez, J., Bello, F., Strutton, P., Purkayastha, S., Firth, T.: Using multimedia and Web3D to enhance anatomy teaching. Comput. Educ. 49(1), 32–53 (2007)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Crosby, M.E., Stelovsky, J.: How do we read algorithms? A case study. IEEE Comput. 23(1), 24–35 (1990)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Uwano, H., Nakamura, M., Monden, A., Matsumoto, K.I.: Analyzing individual performance of source code review using reviewers’ eye movement. In: Proceedings of ACM Symposium Eye Tracking Research & Applications, pp. 133–140 (2006)Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Sharif, B., Falcone, M., Maletic, J.I.: An eye-tracking study on the role of scan time in finding source code defects. In: Proceedings of Symposium on Eye Tracking Research and Applications, pp. 381–384 (2012)Google Scholar
  20. 20.
    Chen, M., Lim, V.: Eye gaze and mouse cursor relationship in a debugging task. In: Stephanidis, C. (ed.) HCI 2013. CCIS, vol. 373, pp. 468–472. Springer, Heidelberg (2013). Scholar
  21. 21.
    Bednarik, R., Myller, N., Sutinen, E., Tukiainen, M.: Program visualization: comparing eye-tracking patterns with comprehension summaries and performance. In: Proceedings of the 18th Annual Psychology of Programming Interest Group Workshop (PPIG’06), pp. 68–82 (2006)Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Bednarik, R.: Expertise-dependent visual attention strategies develop over time during debugging with multiple code representations. Int. J. Hum Comput Stud. 70(2), 143–155 (2012)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Bednarik, R., Tukiainen, M.: Temporal eye-tracking data: evolution of debugging strategies with multiple representations. In: Proceedings of the 2008 Symposium on Eye Tracking Research & Applications, pp. 26–28 (2008)Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Lin, Y.T., Wu, C.C., Hou, T.Y., Lin, Y.C., Yang, F.Y., Chang, C.H.: Tracking students’ cognitive processes during program debugging—an eye-movement approach. IEEE Trans. Educ. 59(3), 175–186 (2016)CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Chun-Chia Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jason C. Hung
    • 2
  • Shih-Cheng Wang
    • 3
  • Yueh-Min Huang
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Information and DesignChang Jung Christian UniversityTainanChina
  2. 2.Department of Computer Science and Information EngineeringNational Taichung University of Science and TechnologyTaichungChina
  3. 3.Department of Engineering ScienceNational Cheng Kung UniversityTainanChina

Personalised recommendations