Psychologic Boosters for Testing

In Roman mythology, 2 headed Janus was the god of gates, doors, doorways, beginnings and endings.

I read this article on PsyBlog titled “Boost Creativity: 7 Unusual Psychological Techniques” and could not help but draw parallels with and draw inspiration for testing better.

Here are my takeaways from this.

  1. (Psychological Distance) When you are working deep into an application trying out different combinations and permutations via data or screen inputs and you simply want more but your mind has gone numb — then take a break, consciously keep out thoughts about testing and do something totally different (like solving a crossword or playing a physical sport or just sleep) letting your subconscious deal with the testing ideas for the application being tested. Chances are new insights will dawn about the application behaviour you did not know about.
  2. (Fast Forward in time/Chronological Distance) Flash forward in time and think about a situation, the user or the application a  few years from now  and thoughts should emerge like the application being into production and whether it would sustain the increased load of users or being able to deal with new technology or what a ‘smarter’ user (having used the application long enough) would look for within the application features to help him do things faster and better than before.
  3. (Absurdist Stimulation) “The mind is desperate to make meaning from experience. The more absurdity it experiences, the harder it has to work to find meaning.” We are all driven so much by past experiences that we become slaves to it more than necessary at times. Every once in a while it makes sense to break out of that and try absurd (viz. inconsistent with reason or logic or common sense; incongruous; inviting ridicule) ways of arriving at ideas, conclusions or solutions.  I know it is not easy but then why not invite the non-techie trainee who works in HR to come over and work with the application and observe him at it. Or better still ask your adolescent kid to try his hand. The idea is yet to be within some boundaries of reason. Invites to monkeys maybe absurd but that would be foolish.
  4. (Use Bad Moods) I guess we use this though not in a controlled manner.. Getting tired of night long testing and being denied the weekend with your family at the cost of testing a web service may drive one nuts but in such a situation would it result in improving one’s knowledge about the application and to test better. I do not think so. The mind would still find a reason to cheat and creativity may not be sustainable. Anyways I think the idea is to consciously drive towards anger, hatred, jealousy, and some such emotions and derive vibes from it… In a way I have personally derived good results in the past when I harboured false negative emotions about a friendly but competent developer to try putting him down (which I did not in real) by exposing issues with the application behaviour. Somehow testing with teeth gritted helped unearth issues and enhanced my understanding.
  5. (Combining Opposites) “set up impossible oppositions, try ridiculous combinations. If all else fails, pray to Janus“.
  6. (Path of most resistance) If option D becomes available after A & B which is what the User Manual states but what if I do C in between. Will it let me do D as before or will there be a problem? Simplistically speaking this is taking the road less travelled or a roundabout route to the destination. This requires the tester to be dogged and methodical in his approach.
  7. (Re-conceptualisation) “People often jump to answers too quickly before they’ve really thought about the question. Research suggests that spending time re-conceptualising the problem is beneficial.”… “forget the solution for now, concentrate on the problem. Are you asking the right question?

Please note that this seems pretty common sensical and as the article rightly mentions “can be applied to everyday life”. Whether we do is another matter altogether.

If ever you run out of testing ideas visit this page and probably you will be better off for it.

Let me know if this worked for you and how or if any other examples comes to your mind.

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