Masad is perhaps guilty of the very problem he identifies. He reads a science paper, latches onto the word "intuitive", misapplies it, and so misses a key point in the paper.
In the original study, the authors present the same cognitive test to two different groups, one time using Myriad 12pt, the other gray italicized Myriad 10pt. In another experiment they changed the masthead of a document to introduce nonsense characters like @$Ã. In a third experiment, they had one group furrow eyebrows while doing a test. In each case, they found that the group with the "disfluent" condition (small gray font, @$ characters in the masthead, furrowed eyebrows) performed better than the control condition. From this they conclude that their experiments support the cognitive theory that we have two distinct reasoning systems, a rapid "intuitive" reasoning system and a slow "analytical" reasoning system, and something about disfluency prompts us to switch from our rapid to slow reasoning, leading to improved scores.
Masad summarizes: "The theory behind this is that people will default to relying on the automatic, effortless, and primitive system for reasoning. But if things are counter-intuitive or harder to understand we switch to the deeper, deliberate and analytical mode of thinking." Note how "intuitive" has jumped ship. In the original paper, "intuitive" was a label for our fast reasoning system, contrasted with our slow analytical reasoning system. For Masad, "intuitive" refers not to one of our cognitive reasoning systems but rather to the -input-, he suggests that if the input (e.g. the software framework) is counter-intuitive or harder to understand then we use our more analytical reasoning. There is nothing to support that conclusion in this study ... there is nothing counter-intuitive about using a gray 10 point font. The conditions with higher scores weren't harder to understand or more counter-intuitive, they were less legible and more difficult to read. If we translate this study to programming, as Masad proposes, it suggests that if you change your IDE to Myriad 10 pt gray italic, then all of a sudden your code will get better. Hey, go ahead, try it!
Ok, sure, what Masad is actually doing is using a science paper as a prompt, a poetic license for thinking about frameworks and coding. But the kinds of shortcuts he makes are informative - so I'm going to take some poetic license of my own...
First, I think Masad overlooks the importance of reading. The science paper suggests that something about how we read changes how we think. One thing I've noticed about beginner programmers is that they tend to be poor/lazy readers of code. They skim, treating a library or framework function as if it is are magic black box, never to be questioned or investigated. I've had many experiences where I've sat down with a programmer, cracked open a source browser, read the actual source of the library function they are relying on, and heard a gasp, as they realize their assumptions that the framework code is perfect/threadsafe/performant etc. fall away. "You mean every time I do this, it does a linear search through my entire dataset. OMG" "Well, yes, its just code. All you have to do is read it." Promoting code reading has nothing to do with whether or not the framework is intuitive or hard to understand or has "negative space". Its much more about business management priorities and deadlines and culture.
Second, its significant that Masad took a paper from one context and used it to think imaginatively about a very different problem space. Bouncing ideas around freely like that is precisely what the fast/intuitive (if potentially incorrect) style of reasoning is good for. His claim that we need to "overcome intuition" is wrong, in my opinion - its exactly how we stimulate new ideas and debate. His own thought-provoking post proves it.