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Are there studies on what effects have programming languages on the brain or for that matter any other artificial languages in general, like mathematics ?

Speaking from my personal experience I feel very different every time I speak Italian, I feel like a virtuoso on a quest but at the other end when I coded in machine code in debug.exe I felt like the main charcter inπ(Movie). Why do I bring this up because I am suspecting that languages affect your mind and popular legends back this up too often: are full of mathematicians that crossed the Rubicon.

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closed as not constructive by Robert Harvey, gnat, ChrisF Sep 6 '12 at 20:13

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I don't know of any study, but I am programmer. I think programming has an effect of making me more organized in real life. But I can't say the same about all my colleagues, so it's not a rule. On the other hand I know that you must have certain abilities to be able to program: codinghorror.com/blog/2006/07/… . Maybe programming just makes these abilities to stand out more. –  Patkos Csaba Sep 6 '12 at 19:03
I haven't seen any about programming languages affecting the brain, but there is a signifcant amount of material on the Sapir Whorf Hypothesis and linguistic relativity (and another bit on language shaping thought). –  MichaelT Sep 6 '12 at 19:03
re comment#2: I wasn't thinking about long-term effects as such. You'd need to deal with the chicken/egg problem: do you abstract because you program, or do you program well because you're good at abstraction? –  comingstorm Sep 6 '12 at 19:25
Pi movie? I was thinking of Snow Crash. –  user16764 Sep 6 '12 at 21:21

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If there were studies, they might be conducted using an MRI and a non-magnetic keyboard like the one in this TED video.


Very likely, they would find certain parts of the brain light up during programming, and there might be some differences between different programming languages and certainly between natural and programming languages.

WRT mathematics driving people to madness (or music, or many other pursuits), I suspect many of those occurrences are coincidental. We all know people who have eccentricities, but I suspect that might be more a factor of working in isolation either individually or as a team that doesn't participate in (or enforce) broader social norms.

Also, I would check some books on neuroscience about speaking Italian changing your feelings vs. changing your capabilities or mode. It is commendable to speak multiple languages, but I think sometimes what our brain tells us about our brain might not be fully reliable. A lot of early psychology was considered less reliable after science provided better tools for measurement. I think David Eagleman writes about the brain in a way that is accessible to lay people and discusses similar issues.

Also, while the movie Pi was innovative and mind bending, and I remember enjoying it and wanting more, I would not bring its paranoia and obsession to bear on problems. Pi is just a number. Writing code, is just writing code.

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Yeah, I think confirmation bias is at work here. For every gifted mathematician/programmer/musician/writer who goes crazy, there are lots of people without mediagenic talents who also go crazy. But they don't get movies like "A Beautiful Mind" made about them. –  comingstorm Sep 6 '12 at 19:45
I came across this very interesting article on programming and the brain on the same topic as the question: virtuecenter.com/blog/… –  Eduard Florinescu May 30 '13 at 8:49

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