(forwarding my earlier direct reply to Richard)

[This is] A regularly recurring question, over the years of PPIG!

This has been the starting point for a number of PhDs, but a religious  
war seldom makes a good PhD. I'm not aware that the results have ever  
found anything very conclusive. Some of the students involved may  
still be on the list, and can tell you what they ultimately found.

It seems unlikely that the people shouting on your list would respond  
to any common sense, but here are the questions I tend to ask new PhD  

1) What is the measure of 'intuitive' that you propose to use?

2) Do you believe that all people are the same? If not, who are you  
trying to help?

3) What do you want people to be able to do with a programming language?

Depending on their answers, I might do something like refer them to  
John Pane's work with Brad Myers on 'Natural Programming' (which was  
focused on understanding childhood models), or just tell them the old  
joke that I saw posted during a religious war on a Python list that  
'ML is the language they use to mop up the excess brain capacity of  
first year Cambridge students' (or same joke, for MIT students using  

I'm not answering you from the email account that has the list  
subscription - feel free to forward if you like.


On 23 Nov 2009, at 04:23, Richard O'Keefe wrote:

> Does anyone know whether there's any empirical evidence either way
> for the hypothesis
>       programmers find a programming language or paradigm
>       "intuitive" to the degree that it resembles what they
>       learned first
> ?
> Another mailing list I'm on just had a bunch of people shouting
> that imperative programming was obviously more intuitive than
> functional or logic programming.  Since they didn't seem to be
> familiar with the fairly wide gap between a typical first-year
> model of how an imperative language and what _really_ happens
> (e.g., apparently non-interfering loads and stores can be
> reordered both by the compiler and the hardware, loads from main
> memory can be 100 times slower than loads from L1 cache, &c),
> I found myself wondering if what they _really_ meant is "I learned
> a simple model early on and find anything else different."
> There's evidence that people find languages like Scheme and Erlang
> (and even Prolog) easier if they haven't done conventional
> imperative or OO programming before, but that's not to say that
> they wouldn't have found those approaches easier still.

- --
Alan Blackwell
Reader in Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge
Further details from www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/

------- End of Forwarded Message

Alan Blackwell
Reader in Interdisciplinary Design, University of Cambridge
Further details from www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/

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