Mind the Bus & Go on Red: Overcoming Biases and Assumptions


When I moved from the UK to the US, I had a number of things to get used to—strange accents, wrong spellings, incorrect pronunciations, lack of good bacon, the wrong sort of football…

One of the big things was driving on the wrong side of the road and getting into the car from the opposite side. I soon got used to it, but then came across all the traffic rules and laws that I didn’t know about. I’m used to roundabouts, not four-way stops—which, for a polite Brit, means I can get stuck there all day.

One morning on my way into work, a school bus stopped in front of me—a moment of minor panic, as I had a vague recollection that you weren’t supposed to pass one. But was that only when it had flashing lights and the stop sign was extended? What if you were driving on the other side of the road? Did it make a difference if there were two lanes or one? So many questions.

Another big change was the option of “right turn on red.” There’s no such thing in the UK, so it took a long time for me to get over my lifetime habit of waiting for the light to turn green before going. Apologies to anyone who was stuck behind me; maybe there’s a market for an “I’m an ex-pat” bumper sticker…

But what does this have to do with software and testing?

Firstly, the obvious point of being aware of the local laws, customs, and expectations. If I were testing a driving simulator (or maybe soon, a self-driving car!), then the school bus and red light scenario might get missed.

Secondly, it shows the many assumptions, biases, and habits that we collect over the years. Exposure to real users can help with this. So can being aware of yourself and realizing that you have fallen into routines (always using the keyboard and never a mouse to navigate, always filling in a form from top-to-bottom, always clicking on the OK button rather than clicking off-screen, etc.).

Want to overcome your biases and assumptions? Try setting aside a testing session where you deliberately do things differently and in different orders.

And don’t be so quick to press the horn when the car in front of you is stopped at a red light.