Emotional contagion in open-source software collaborations

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University of New Brunswick


Software development is a human-centered process, and as such it involves more than the technical artifacts it creates. Previous work in the literature shows that emotions and sentiments play a critical role in software development. However, very little has been written about a phenomenon that effectively amplifies emotions to an entire group: emotional contagion. Emotional contagion is the influence of the emotional state of a person or a group caused by the emotional state of another person or group, whether subconscious or conscious. Emotional contagion has been studied in many contexts, but it has seldom been examined in the more technical context of software development. Software development introduces a certain level of detachment in interpersonal communication because such communications often happen through virtual means, lacking the full range on in person communications such as voice tones, facial expressions, and gestures. Thus, emotional contagion in software engineering takes a slightly different form. The goal of this thesis is to detect emotional contagion that happens in the process of software development, through the analysis of communication records between teams; and to understand the consequences of such contagion. This will ultimately help in understanding the role that emotions play in influencing the overall process, one which is highly engineered and technical but still is influenced by human behavior. The analyses presented in this study contribute towards the detection of emotional contagion in opensource collaborative work with no in-person communication and the consequences of this contagion over the decisions of collaborations amongst the participants.



TECHNOLOGY::Information technology::Computer science::Software engineering