When You Get Stuck, Talk to the Duck

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What It Means to “Rubber Duck Debug”

Do you ever get stuck on a coding problem and, to help figure it out, you begin talking to yourself, or to a rubber duck on your desk?  Just me? Okay. Well, it’s unfortunate society associates self-talk with lunacy, because this underutilized problem-solving tool is excellent for debugging.

Think about it: have you ever approached a fellow developer with a tech problem and half way through explaining it to them you magically realized the answer?  It’s also at this point your ever-so-witty co-worker responds with, “Glad I could help.” It was your brain that did the solving all by itself. But how? How is it that speaking out a problem can result in its solution? There’s a psychological reason for this phenomenon and it has to do with the way your neurons associate ideas.

According to the Quarter Journal of Experimental Psychology, ‘ongoing perceptual processing’, or saying the word “chair” instead of just thinking about a “chair”, actually increases brain activity and awareness of that item, in this case a chair.  Educational psychologists support this approach with research indicating that, “Students…

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