It’s All in the Mindset

I recently started reading ‘Proust was a Neuroscientist’ by Jonah Lehrer, so far it has been an extremely interesting and thought provoking book, I’ll probably write a proper review once I finish it but in the meantime I wanted to explore one particular thought.

In the chapter where he writes about how Auguste Escoffier invented veal stock they come across an interesting phenomena. Your mindset determines what you taste. Serve identical wines in a cheap bottle and in an expensive bottle and nearly all tasters will think that the wine in the expensive bottle tastes better. The tasters are not lying. The brain expects the wine to taste better and so when the tastes are interpreted by the subjective brain they are judged to be better.

I started thinking about how mindset affects testing. We all know that developers tend not to make good testers because they expect the system to work. They either subconsciously don’t stress the system or in some cases become blind to the errors.  It seems that testers can be caught out in the same way. Everything from past experiences to your current happiness will affect what you see and how you judge something.

It’s normal to expect that experienced testers who have a wealth of previous bug discoveries will carry out the best testing. In fact I often find that totally new testers, with their entirely fresh mindset, can uncover some incredible bugs.

Perhaps the only way to deal with this is to embrace it. Structure your testing sessions so that you deliberately set your mindset. In the first session go in expecting everything to work. Embrace your user and confirm the main user actions can be performed. Later adopt a negative mindset and expect everything to be broken. Try to see things from the point of view of a blind person, or a colour blind person. How about if you’re in a rush and need to complete a task quickly? Each time you set your mindset to something different your brain will start seeing, and interrupting things differently.

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