Investigating the effects of personality traits on Pair Programming in a higher education setting through a family of experiments

Norsaremah Salleh, Emilia Mendes, John Grundy

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56 Citations (Scopus)


Evidence from our systematic literature review revealed numerous inconsistencies in findings from the Pair Programming (PP) literature regarding the effects of personality on PP's effectiveness as a pedagogical tool. In particular: i) the effect of differing personality traits of pairs on the successful implementation of pair-programming (PP) within a higher education setting is still unclear, and ii) the personality instrument most often used had been Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), despite being an indicator criticized by personality psychologists as unreliable in measuring an individual's personality traits. These issues motivated the research described in this paper. We conducted a series of five formal experiments (one of which was a replicated experiment), between 2009 and 2010, at the University of Auckland, to investigate the effects of personality composition on PP's effectiveness. Each experiment looked at a particular personality trait of the Five-Factor personality framework. This framework comprises five broad traits (Openness to experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism), and our experiments focused on three of these - Conscientiousness, Neuroticism, and Openness. A total of 594 undergraduate students participated as subjects. Overall, our findings for all five experiments, including the replication, showed that Conscientiousness and Neuroticism did not present a statistically significant effect upon paired students' academic performance. However, Openness played a significant role in differentiating paired students' academic performance. Participants' survey results also indicated that PP not only caused an increase in satisfaction and confidence levels but also brought enjoyment to the tutorial classes and enhanced students' motivation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)714-752
Number of pages39
JournalEmpirical Software Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Five-factor model
  • Formal experiment
  • Higher education
  • Pair programming
  • Personality traits

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