Irina’s Weblog


Brain Modes and Pair Programming

Filed under: Computers — Izida @ 8:18 pm

Pair Programming is a famous XP technique with both devoted supporters and strong opposers. It is also quite well known. Still recently I read in the book “Pragmatic Thinking and Learning” an interesting opinion from the author what exactly are the biggest pluses of Pair Programming:

Our brain can be in one of two modes: linear (logical, verbal, conscious) and rich (intuitive, non-verbal, unconscious). While writing code we are verbal, thus forcing our brain to enter linear mode. Unfortunately, this brings a serious disadvantage – since rich mode is off, and rich mode is responsible for creativity, we loose the chance to come up with the most original and beautiful ideas. That is why we need to regularly step away from the keyboard to be able to process the problem from another perspective. What I usually do is to prepare myself a cup of herbal tea, go on the terrace, take a walk outside, or even, with home office, do some laundry. When one does something routine, the linear brain mode seems to get bored and switches off. Then the subconscious processing of your problem starts. When you go back to the keyboard after a while, the solutions is present without you having searched intentionally for it.

Pair Programming allows us to eliminate the need of such breaks since there is a second programmer next to us. He is free from writing code, from verbality, so his mind is able to turn on its rich mode. This way he is able to see the big picture, to search for patterns, to identify repetitions. Instead of a single programmer switching between linear and rich brain mode, there are now two programmers working one in linear, another in rich mode. The two complement each other. We have both brain modes simultaneously instead of sequentially.

The Driver drives the car and stays focused, the Navigator looks at the whole picture and offers suggestions and advice.

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