Does learning Visual Basic improve cognitive development?

by Giselle N
The article I read this week was about whether visual basic programming has an impact on cognitive development of college students. The author starts off by giving some history on this subject, saying that there has been some past research that has show that cognitive skills like reasoning, problem-solving and logic thinking have been increased by computer programming for high school and elementary school students. However, he also points out that there is a difference between cognitive skills and cognitive development. Cognitive development is described as what “can be learned, while cognitive skills is what “is” learned. “Such learned skills can show the level of cognitive development a person is at.” So, research has shown that programming can improve cognitive skills, but can it improve cognitive development? There have been theories that suggest that visual programming such as , visual basic, requires little cognitive development because of the level of visual components used. There was research done on students from an introductory programming course in Visual Basic from a Texas university. The researches used the prepositional logic test, PLT, at the beginning of the semester and at the end to test this question. The PLT, “measures Boolean logical thinking ability, the ability to interpret truth function operations with a stated rule. The PLT requires 15 minutes to administer. The subject responds to 16 items, which measure Piagetian formal operations. The PLT shows the ability to deal with IF/THEN/ELSE programming statements. The PLT has been used to study logical reasoning as a predictor of success in a computer science course for non-computer science majors (Stager-Snow, 1985) and found to correlate with grades from a computer science logic course (Kirn, 1995). The PLT has been an instrument used in other previous related studies to study Formal Operations thinking.” Results concluded that learning Visual Basic had no impact on cognitive development. So really, this type of programming language can teach and improve cognitive skills, but not cognitive development.


I found this article really interesting and a little confusing. In reality, the author goes on to say that in order to be good at programming, students should already be at the required cognitive level. It makes sense as to why cognitive development is not affected in college students because their development has probably already reached maturity, as the author suggests. When I first read this article and saw that VB had no impact on cognitive development, I thought to myself, then why learn it? Obviously, I didn’t know that definition of cognitive development. There are plenty of advantages to learning VB. So in conclusion, although it did not improve cognitive development (because students had probably already reached maturity) on college students it does improve cognitive skills. From this, I can probably guess that Visual Basic programming would impact cognitive development on high school and elementary students just because their development haven’t matured.


White, G. (2006). Visual basic programming impact on cognitive development of college students. Journal of Information Systems Education, 17(4), 421-427.

2 thoughts on “Does learning Visual Basic improve cognitive development?

  • May 14, 2012 at 12:09 am

    Great article, I do think that in order to measure the cognitive development in programming, it should be introduced a lot earlier like when they are in middle school or high school. Students at that level are still growing and their cognitive capacities is not as great as those students who are much older which would make it more interesting to test.

  • May 14, 2012 at 1:11 am

    Interesting article but even though learning VB does not have a strong correlation to increased cognitive development it still improves a student’s cognitive skill. Learning how to program and using logic to solve problems should be a bigger part of curriculum in middle and high school instead of the usual information memorization that does not help a student grow and become more educated. It stimulates the student’s processing skills, attention span, and memory which will prepare them for college and their futures.

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