Since then I rediscovered a study [Hadar] published in May 2008 that seems to attempt to answer similar question but more specifically directed to OO design.
the formal OO paradigm has come to sometimes clash with the very intuitions that produced it. Thus while objects, classes, and inheritance certainly have an intuitive flavour, their formal version in OOD is different in important ways from their intuitive origins.
Dual-process theory, imported from contemporary cognitive psychology, highlights the underlying mechanism of those situations where our intuitions clash with our more disciplined knowledge and reasoning..... Highly accessible features will influence decisions, while features of low accessibility will largely ignored.
The intuition, as discussed in this paper, is explained based on the Dual-Process theory, credited to D. Kahneman, which states that
our cognition and behavior operate in parallel in two quite different modes, called System 1 (S1) and System 2 (S2), roughly corresponding to our common sense notion of intuitive and analytical thinking.The paper is worth reading as it describes experiments with experienced developers rather than using students.
... S1 processes are characterized as being fast, automatic, effortless, unconscious, and inflexible (difficult to change or overcome). In contrast, S2 processes are slow, conscious, effortful, and relatively flexible. In addition, S2 serves as monitor and critic of the fast automatic responses of S1, with the "authority" to override them when necessary. In many situations, S1 and S2 work in concert, but there are situations ... in which S1 produces quick automatic non-normative responses, while S2 may or may not intervene in is role as monitor and critic.
I wonder if this explains why it is much easier to get "experienced" people to do work (the S1 process at play or the assisted and influenced by habits) while harder to get someone to think (the S2 process and the need to counter to what habits may lead to)?
I am also wondering if S1 relates to the Accidental Tasks while S2 is to Essential Tasks in software development as elaborated long ago in the "No Silver Bullet" paper by Brooks?
[Hadar] "How intuitive is Object-Oriented Design?" by Irit Hadar and Uri Leron, CACM May 2008/Vol 51 No. 5, pp 41-46
[Brooks] "No Silver Bullet - Essence and Accidents of Software Engineering", Frederick P. Brooks, Jr. IEEE Computer April, 1987. Vol 20 No. 4, pp 10-19