Matthew Ivory

PhD student


I am engaging with the EPSRC-funded project titled, "The soft skills of software learning development: Psychological dimensions of computing and security behaviours".

This project aims to investigate the cognitive and social behaviours of software developers and computer scientists to better understand the psychological underpinnings of the soft skills that are important in software development. Soft skills, or non-technical skills, are important in the workplace to allow a person to use their technical skills effectively to achieve their goals.

Previous research has examined the skills that software developers possess, or what soft skills are sought by employers, but this has not gone much further than identifying skills such as “problem solving”, “teamwork”, or “critical thinking”. This PhD project aims to identify the psychological dimensions that underpin these skills, such as cognitive reflection or social identities. In doing so, it is possible to use psychology to offer insights to software developers and help them mitigate or reduce potential biases or blind spots in their working practices. This can only be done once we understand more about the psychological makeup of software developers beyond their technical abilities.

Through a combination of qualitative and quantitative research, this project aims to identify these dimensions in populations of software developers and prospective developers (e.g. undergraduate computer scientists) to highlight the psychological makeup that is useful in software development. These same research themes can be applied to the security behaviours seen in software development, in order to understand and promote better security practices in software development.

The impact of this project extends in to both the theoretical and practical. Theoretically, it allows for a better understanding of the psychology of software developers. It also provides a platform upon which further ideas and hypotheses can be tested that can be used to encourage better security behaviours in software developers. Practically, the research can be used to update and inform the computer science courses offered by universities to promote and encourage the development of soft skills, which in turn will benefit the software development industry.