Psychology of a Software Tester: Expectations and Moral Lessons

Even if at the very start my colleagues laughed at me when I felt bad that our software is ‘buggy’ telling me that ‘it’s our job, silly, be glad’, but… I still have that good versus bad fight inside of me. It is good that I find something bad which means I work pretty well, however, I work for a company, for that specific project, for the specific software. Is it bad if the software that I work on (our product) is bad? 

I am not the only one with questions like that. Understanding how common this ‘crisis’ is between testers, Cem Kaner, Jack Falk, Hung Q. Nguyen in their book ‘Testing Computer Software’ gave a lovely introduction which even had a few psychology notes there. I am going to share some of my findings. 

You get what you expect. 

Imagine that you’re a scientist and you just discovered a new wonderful theory. You have a lot of methods which you could apply to prove that it’s correct. However, take a minute, think about it… Would you choose methods which could make your theory fail? 
There actually has been a research about how intelligent experimenters unconsciously avoid test experiments which show that their ideas are wrong (Rosenthal, 1966). 
Similar example showing how expectations rule our mind is proof reading. We expect words to be written with no typos and we manage to raed wdors the way we expect them to be.
Exactly the same thing happens with a software tester…. If you have an attitude that your software is good – you won’t find any bugs, you will miss the ones that actually are there and take them as details or accidents.

You have to want software to fail. 

This sounds rough. I know. It is your software, you work on its quality and you want it to be bug-free. But your attitude must be very strict and judging – in order to make your software really good, you must put high standards on it.
It just reminded of a quote which I liked way before I was a software tester (maybe it’s a sign!) by Baltasar Gracian: 

Attempt easy tasks as if they were difficult, and difficult as if they were easy; in the one case that confidence may not fall asleep, in the other that it may not be dismayed.

You can do your job well (even if it will never be perfect). 

There are always bugs left. This is a one more ‘sore’ point for testers. You will never catch them all. Therefore, you will never be a perfect software tester. You will never do your job completely, but… you can do it really well. 

Sometimes it’s hard, but hey… Being a software tester is way more than catching bugs, it teaches you… life. It may be difficult at times, but noticing problematic areas in software is actually a path to a better software, and, even if testing does not win you any popularity contests, but secretly, everyone is grateful that you point out the defects which could have caused a lot of trouble. 


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