Measuring Human Values in Software Engineering

Emily Winter, Stephen Wallace Forshaw, Maria Angela Felicita Cristina Ferrario

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

25 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Human values, such as prestige, social justice, and financial success, influence software production decision-making processes. While their subjectivity makes some values difficult to measure, their impact on software motivates our research. Aim: To contribute to the scientific understanding and the empirical investigation of human values in Software Engineering (SE). Approach: Drawing from social psychology, we consider values as mental representations to be investigated on three levels: at a system (L1), personal (L2), and instantiation level (L3). Method: We design and develop a selection of tools for the investigation of values at each level, and focus on the design, development, and use of the Values Q-Sort. Results: From our study with 12 software practitioners, it is possible to extract three values ‘prototypes’ indicative of an emergent typology of values considerations in SE. Conclusions: The Values Q-Sort generates quantitative values prototypes indicating values relations (L1) as well as rich personal narratives (L2) that reflect specific software practices (L3). It thus offers a systematic, empirical approach to capturing values in SE.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 12th International Symposium on Empirical Software Engineering and Measurement
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 12 Oct 2018


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