02 May

Srikanth Krishnan's Community Choice Submission

02 May 2012 by paul

Presentation Title: Cognitive Biases in Testing Srikanth Krishnan

Company: Oracle India Pvt. Ltd.

Country: India


Most QA methodologies & test strategies assume a rational tester, who takes logical calls on developing test-cases, allocating resources, reviewing & reporting issues etc. And at the end of a cycle she introspects what went right and more importantly, what went wrong and new development / test process and strategies evolve. But research shows that this rational tester is a figment of our imagination and all testers are susceptible to a gamut of behavioral/psychological factors that influence & bias their ability to take right decisions.
In general a tester develops opinions regarding how things should look, how things should behave, and the overall end user experience. These cognitive biases make up the filter between what actually exists, and what she perceives to be true. The task of testing should attempt to realize and recognize a tester's cognitive biases, and rationalizations of decisions that made based on those biases.

This talk borrows from behavioral economic theory (presented in popular books like Sway, Predictably irrational & Blink) and examines how these factors influence a tester's behavior in irrational (but predictable) ways. This talk explores the impact of some of these behaviors (biases) like, Loss aversion, Procrastination & self control, Effect of expectations, Price of ownership, Asymmetric dominance effect etc. on decisions that testers make. It provides examples and cases from our experience and also looks at approaches we can take to protect us from falling victim to these cognitive biases..

What are cognitive biases and how they affect rational decision making? What are biases that can affect you as a tester? How can you protect yourself from falling victim to some common cognitive bias 'traps' ?


I am Srikanth Krishnan from India, I work with Oracle India and I manage the EBS QA team. I would like to interest you in a talk that I think the intelligent audience of EuroSTAR will find interesting & useful.

Does any of this sound familiar to you?

Ogilvy supposedly said ""Half of advertising dollars go to waste. The problem is in identifying which half! ". Do you feel that the same is true for testing?

You make a totally rational pitch based on facts/data & find your customers/management take decision based on "gut-feel"?

Know of any testers who are so emotionally invested in their tests or product areas that they miss things that are blindingly obvious beyond their boundaries?

Do you feel that irrespective of the deadline most testing happen close to the cut-off?

Ever wonder how your expectation of the quality of product seems to come true so often that it seems a little too good to be true?

Do you feel having more choices (tools, test plans, environments etc.) don't necessarily translate into better outcomes?

Do you find that your management/customer seems to remember that one bug that you missed but forget the 100's that you caught?

If you found yourself nodding in agreement to one or more of the above then...
You need to vote for this talk

In this talk I will dive into some of the concepts from Behavioral economics & draw parallels with testing.

I will break the myth that we all consider to be true ie., we are rational human beings making data based decisions that maximize our desired outcome.
I will share how we predictably make in-correct decisions, and the patterns underlying such biases.

I will highlight some of the cognitive biases testers (or even developers for that matter) fall prey to and what it means for your project/product.

I will also show how you can leverage some of the biases to your advantage in nudging people towards outcomes that you would like.

And finally we will explore some ways in which you can sensitize yourself to such "black-holes", mitigate them and manage the risk around such biases.

Give me your feedback

While this is the overarching story arc for my talk, I am open to suggestions & feedback. If there are specific areas that interest you, that you would like to hear more about or have any ideas suggestion on how this talk can be of more value to you, please let me know. I am happy to engage with you in the comments section and see what best I can do.

Srikranth Krishnan is the Senior Director and head of Quality Assurance organization for Ebusiness Suite of applications at Oracle Corporation. He has been with Oracle for the last 10 years. Prior to Oracle he was with ABS Dubai as a consultant and Applications Engineer at Sundaram Clayton. Sundaram Clayton
was the first winner of the Deming prize for quality in India. Srikanth is an executive committee Chairperson of STeP-IN Hyderabad. He is a lifelong learner whose diverse interests include photography, gardening, technology, management, and travel.


60 comment(s) for “Community Choice: Srikanth Krishnan”

  1. Gravatar of Murali Alluri
    Murali Alluri Says:
    This is going to be a great talk in EuroStar 2012 to have.The Testing Community need to focus more on the cognitive biases to make more rational and logical decisions in testing.
  2. Gravatar of arumilli anand
    arumilli anand Says:
    I find this topic interesting. Most impressions and thoughts arise in our conscious experience without us knowing how it got there. The mental work that produces it goes on in the silence of our mind. As a tester I have fallen prey to some these biases myself. I would certainly like to hear these biases unraveled and the strategies for managing the risks around them. An apt topic for the testing community.I vote for this talk.
  3. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Thanks Murali & Arumili.
  4. Gravatar of Gopal
    Gopal Says:
    The topic looks refreshing different. It seems to touch upon the travesty of the mind and unravel a remarkable and not so familiar dimension of testing. This could be a fascinating journey into the human behaviour and thought process. This topic should present very pertient factors that test managers and testers should consider when designing and executing test strategies.
    A must hear - my vote goes for this talk.
  5. Gravatar of Suparna Chincholi
    Suparna Chincholi Says:
    I think this topic gives a new dimension to testing and manages the testers behavioral aspects better. This would help testers to make better decisions. I am for this topic.
  6. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Gopal, I will strive to position the pertinent factors that you mention. Any specific areas that you are looking for ? Any experiences that you woul dlike to share?
  7. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Thanks Suparna.
  8. Gravatar of tangirala
    tangirala Says:
    Excellent Topic. I vote for this topic.
  9. Gravatar of Vipul Gaur
    Vipul Gaur Says:
    This is a very nice topic. You can not negate the human factor involved in any aspect and same applies to software testing. I would like to hear this topic because it is exploring testing and related challenges in totally different paradigm.
  10. Gravatar of Katherine Fitzerald
    Katherine Fitzerald Says:
    The topic sounds very interesting. My vote goes for it.
  11. Gravatar of Kiran Kumar Malla
    Kiran Kumar Malla Says:
    This is very interesting topic. I vote.
  12. Gravatar of Neeraj Maithel
    Neeraj Maithel Says:
    Interesting topic which could provide a new dimension to the way u can test.
  13. Gravatar of Rajesh Krishnan
    Rajesh Krishnan Says:
    Hey Srikanth, very interesting topic and very 'out of the box' and lateral topic. Touches on a testers psychology, 'mental fitness' and attitude towards testing as a whole and making an interesting job profile which otherwise is considered by some sceptics a mundane task. Great choice and good luck. Look forward to it.
  14. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Thanks Tangirala, Katherine, Neeraj & Kiran.

    Thanks for your comments, we usually discount the effects of "mental fitness" & attitude on a testing team.
    This is an attempt to try and sensitize the testers to the huge effect the so called "mundane" has on the profound.
  15. Gravatar of Sai Sandhya
    Sai Sandhya Says:
    This is very interesting topic. I vote
  16. Gravatar of ShriRam Paidi
    ShriRam Paidi Says:
    Very interesting and useful topic for a Tester. I will vote for this.
  17. Gravatar of Ashish Jain
    Ashish Jain Says:
    This is really a nice topic which will help a tester to think in a different way and one can make better decisions to get desired outputs. I vote for this talk.
  18. Gravatar of Nutan Karamcheti
    Nutan Karamcheti Says:
    Tuning the judgement and interpretation to remove or reduce biases would really make an engrossing talk. Would love to hear more.
  19. Gravatar of Prasanti
    Prasanti Says:
    I've already heard this topic in Step In and can vouch that it would be a good topic to be presented at EuroSTAR too. My vote goes for it.
  20. Gravatar of Bala
    Bala Says:
    Great topic Sriks. This is going to open up a new dimension among the tester community. For those who missed STepIN this is going to be another Chance. My vote goes here.
  21. Gravatar of Sreelakshmi Alluri
    Sreelakshmi Alluri Says:
    I definitely would want to know more and also would like to approach an unbiased testing. My vote goes in here for the same.
  22. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Thanks Sandhya, Shriram, Ashish, Nutan and SreeLakshmi.

    While we may never get to unbiased testing, the idea here is to sensitize testers to patterns of predictable biases that one might have.
    If you have interesting stories where you discovered you own biases & making yourself a better, would love to hear them .
    Keep the posts coming.

    Also as a foot note the voting has not yet started.
    So you comments here won't count, unless you come here again after 28th to vote.
    Do keep that in mind & spread the word.
  23. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Hi Bala,
    Nice you hear from you after a long time.
    Glad you could find time to check this out.
    Do come back afer 28th to vote :)
  24. Gravatar of Pallavi
    Pallavi Says:
    Such a thought provoking topic and that too being presented by Srikanth would be worth a ton ! Will be back on 28th to vote for this !
  25. Gravatar of Mohammed Noorulla
    Mohammed Noorulla Says:
    This topic is something that I was looking for. I was really curious how I can interpret my judgment (or what you call Cognitive bias) during various phases of testing. I believe sometimes we fall prey to this judgment and compromise on the actual coverage of testing. Now I am relieved to know that there is some term for this behavior and I hope you are going to cover how we can come over with our cognitive bias. I totally agree with Murali's analysis "The Testing Community need to focus more on the cognitive biases to make more rational and logical decisions in testing". I am sure this topic will take our testing community in the right direction.
  26. Gravatar of Prabhu Chepuri
    Prabhu Chepuri Says:
    Awesome topic Srikanth !!. Kudos to you for selecting such a topic. It only comes from experience. You Must have taken lot of effort for your presentation. The points that you mentioned above and are going to elaborate in your presentation are often not given so much importance, but at the end most us realize that it is these finer aspects that made/make the difference.
  27. Gravatar of Harini Choudari
    Harini Choudari Says:
    Having spent many years in the field of testing and even experienced this at times.. though unintentional, I haven't come across such a topic which is very practical and realistic that a professional tester should bear in mind. I'm looking forward to hear more on this subject. You grab my vote..!!
  28. Gravatar of Raghavendra Udupa
    Raghavendra Udupa Says:
    Nice one.. about the behavioral aspect of the tester .. I would add that the more the "negative" the tester about the product, the better is the outcome.. What you say?
  29. Gravatar of Jyotirmaya Panda
    Jyotirmaya Panda Says:
    The topic sounds very interesting. Knowing you and your depth of knowledge this will be a great session and here goes my vote for you. Cheers
  30. Gravatar of David
    David Says:
    Great Topic. I voted this.
  31. Gravatar of Sivaji
    Sivaji Says:
    Interesting topic. I vote for this topic
  32. Gravatar of Shyam Suchak
    Shyam Suchak Says:
    Very interesting topic. My vote goes for it.
  33. Gravatar of Balahari L
    Balahari L Says:
    This is very interesting topic. It gives new dimension to testing. My vote for this topic.
  34. Gravatar of Prasad
    Prasad Says:
    Topic looks very interesting , covering new aspects of testing
  35. Gravatar of Latha
    Latha Says:
    A different and thought provoking topic.
  36. Gravatar of Srinivas Potnuru
    Srinivas Potnuru Says:
    This topic is really very interesting and would like to know more on the approach of an unbiased testing.
  37. Gravatar of Coco
    Coco Says:
    Very interesting topic! As a test engineer, I am looking forward to learn more from you. I vote for this topic.
  38. Gravatar of Mark
    Mark Says:
    Cool, go ahead, please.
  39. Gravatar of Kiki
    Kiki Says:
    this topic is very special, i am curious about that, go ahead!
  40. Gravatar of Ranjit Jadhav
    Ranjit Jadhav Says:
    Human side of anything is always interesting to analyze and reflect upon! :-) Makes for an interesting topic....
  41. Gravatar of Sandeep Achanna
    Sandeep Achanna Says:
    I've already heard this topic. This is a very thought provoking talk on human judgment and decision-making. Really helps the testers and test Managers to think and act differently.
    My vote goes for this talk.
  42. Gravatar of Sista Siva Rama Krishna
    Sista Siva Rama Krishna Says:
    It is very interesting to know which better half of a "Tester" substantially contributes to testing product and how to make the other half feel better.Further,It is true to note that many of these factors listed above would influence the approach a person takes when he begins to test the Product.
    Here goes my vote for this topic.
  43. Gravatar of Sreevani Kakarala
    Sreevani Kakarala Says:
    Looking forward to know more on the factors influencing behavioural aspects of a tester. I vote!
  44. Gravatar of Arun Govindaswamy
    Arun Govindaswamy Says:
    While the rest of your questions are definitely true, this one has always intrigued and nagged me "Do you find that your management/customer seems to remember that one bug that you missed but forget the 100's that you caught?". I have even wondered whether having a QA team that is selected from say 10 of these nitpicking / demanding customers would do a good job of testing.., I have seen behavioural economics principles being used in the stock market, using the same for software testing is definitely a paradigm shift..My Aye for this topic..
  45. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Thanks a lot folks, Please go to the home page & scroll all the way down to see the voting section with radio buttons & a captcha & "are you human" question. You will have to register though it is not painful.
  46. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Arun, It is not that I have an issue with demanding customers, but sometimes this just throws effort which is not in line with the overall test scope and strategy. You might be forced to test feature X because of a painful history even thought you have more testing to do in feature Y which is new & more customers are expected to use it.

    What we need to clarify is that (unless you have more budget) the request to do more testing in one area is usually at the cost of some other (potentially more deserving) area.
  47. Gravatar of Roopak Yerramsetty
    Roopak Yerramsetty Says:
    Looks like a very interesting topic. Would like to know, how much of a role, experience plays in building the bias. Or is it dependent only upon the logical reasoning and critical thinking of the tester? Looking forward to the presentation.
  48. Gravatar of Rakesh Sharma
    Rakesh Sharma Says:
    Hi Srikanth, This is really interesting topic and being a part of QA team I can totally relate to it. I agree that we sometimes subconsciously become bias tester. My Vote goes to this topic. All the best !!
  49. Gravatar of Prasanta Pradhan
    Prasanta Pradhan Says:
    Interesing topic for Testing community. Everyday, we make numerous decisions, big or small.It's true that congitive biases creep in every where consciously or unconsciously resulting poor decision making.

    I'm looking forward to know more about heuristics/ frameworks which can leverage congitive biases enabling testers to make efficient decisions.

    Also, I'm eager to know about some adaptive and beneficial congitive biases which could enable testers to take faster decisions/ actions in a given context. All the Best !!!
  50. Gravatar of Kannan Partha
    Kannan Partha Says:
    It is pretty good topic and I am really intersted in knowing more about your solutions for this issue. it is always a conundrum in testing that what to test, how much to test and when to exit. As a tester I always feel that I have not done enough testing. I hope you will also feel the same with a huge QA team to manage. With so many complexities involved in the software application, it is tough for a testing team to identify all the issues and defects. I feel the approach or solution could not an individual one but should rather address the team and it's dynamics. I hope your presentation will cover that approach too !!
  51. Gravatar of Venu
    Venu Says:
    Hi Srikanth...this is really a nice topic. We tend to focus more on technology and process aspects of testing and psychological factors are often neglected. But I do agree that these psychological factors are important in getting the results. I also experienced that many testers are reluctant to change due to their biases and conditioning from past experience. At the same time best test plan fails to detect some critical bugs due to so called "biases". I am interested to know any techniques on how to handle biases in evaluating "Exit criteria" and release decision. best wishes srikanth..good luck !
  52. Gravatar of Prasanna
    Prasanna Says:
    Intresting topic..
  53. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Partha, One of the aspects I am covering is on social constructs. Like you mentioned there are interpersonal dynamics that influence a great deal of individual behavior (group think, independence reporting etc). While gruop dynamics in software development is a huge area in itself, I will touch upon one aspect that influences the tester.
  54. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    So true , I sometimes feel we put too much emphasis on the hard factors while totally ignoring soft factors. Simple example is 2 testers running the same set of tests but conditioning them differently (Ex. tell one he is testing a buggy product & the other that it has already been tested by an expert) and you will be surprised at the different results that you get. Even the way you frame your (exit criteria) reports can get you very different answers!
  55. Gravatar of Srikanth Krishnan
    Srikanth Krishnan Says:
    Thanks Rakesh, Roopak, Prasanta & Prasanna
  56. Gravatar of Prabhu Chepuri
    Prabhu Chepuri Says:
    Congratulations!! we will look forward to the presentation. All the best.
  57. Gravatar of Divya
    Divya Says:
    Good Topic . Let us know when is your presentation . I would like to hear how Testers can divert themselves from Unit testing and focus on real time scenarios..
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  60. Gravatar of sravanthi
    sravanthi Says:
    hi srikanth,
    i have been to step-in summit 2014, held at hyderabad and you session was the most important, interesting session that i have ever heard in my life
    thank you for such a wonderful brain storm , i have started followng your posts on the net now :)

    very inspiring

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