Reading Between the Lines: Modeling User Behavior and Costs in AI-Assisted Programming


AI code-recommendation systems (CodeRec), such as Copilot, can assist programmers inside an IDE by suggesting and autocompleting arbitrary code; potentially improving their productivity. To understand how these AI improve programmers in a coding session, we need to understand how they affect programmers’ behavior. To make progress, we studied GitHub Copilot, and developed CUPS – a taxonomy of 12 programmer activities common to AI code completion systems. We then conducted a study with 21 programmers who completed coding tasks and used our labeling tool to retrospectively label their sessions with CUPS. We analyze over 3000 label instances, and visualize the results with timelines and state machines to profile programmer-CodeRec interaction. This reveals novel insights into the distribution and patterns of programmer behavior, as well as inefficiencies and time costs. Finally, we use these insights to inform future interventions to improve AI-assisted programming and human-AI interaction.