Musical Program Auralization: Empirical Studies

Paul Vickers, James Alty

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Program auralization aims to communicate information about program state, data, and behavior using audio. We have argued that music offers many advantages as a communication medium [Alty 1995]. The CAITLIN system [Alty and Vickers 1997; Vickers 1999; Vickers and Alty 1996, 1998] was constructed to provide auralizations within a formal structured musical framework. Pilot studies [Alty and Vickers 1997; Vickers 1999] showed that programmers could infer program structure from auralizations alone. A study was conducted using 22 novice programmers to assess (i) whether novices could understand the musical auralizations and (ii) whether the musical experience and knowledge of subjects affected their performance. The results show that novices could interpret the auralizations (with accuracy varying across different levels of abstraction) and that musical knowledge had no significant effect on performance. A second experiment was conducted with another 22 novice programmers to study the effects of musical program auralization on debugging tasks. The experiment aimed to determine whether auralizations would lead to higher bug detection rates. The results indicate that, in certain circumstances, musical auralizations can be used to help locate bugs in programs and that musical skill does not affect the ability to make use of the auralizations. In addition, the experiment showed that subjective workload increased when the musical auralizations were used.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)477-489
JournalACM Transactions on Applied Perception
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005


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