Labvanced's green and blue mesh which is used in eye tracking technology

What Is Eye Tracking?

Eye tracking is a type of methodology useful in psychology and behavioral sciences for quantifying attentional processes. Many different technologies have arisen in the last few years for this purpose. With eye tracking, the position of the eye is measured, along with the point of gaze, then the changing movements and positions are measured in parallel with the stimuli or objects being presented during the experiment.

Labvanced’s eye tracking is one of the leading solutions for remote, web-based eye tracking. By activating their webcam during the experiment, the participant can essentially participate in any eye tracking study. This happens with utmost privacy because the process occurs locally and is not being sent to remote servers.

Eye Tracking Metrics

Eye tracking produces many different metrics which are then used for data analysis and drawing conclusions about your experimental question.

  1. Gaze location
  2. Areas of Interest (AOI)
  3. Ratio
  4. Revists
  5. Dwell time / time spent
  6. Time to first fixation
  7. First fixation duration
  8. Average fixation duration
  9. Fixation sequences
  10. Heatmaps

The majority of these metrics are generated during the data analysis stage, after data collection. The basis of these metrics is gaze measurements. If you know the gaze position point at any given time, you can calculate the remaining metrics.

Collecting Eye Tracking Data from Labvanced

With a few clicks, you can set up your experiment to record the data you desire by selecting one of the many options and creating variables to record them.

View of Labvanced's app for setting up the eye tracking variables

Fig. 1: Setting variables in Labvanced’s eye tracking app to record experimental data about gaze.

Here, in Fig. 1. a variable is created to record the eye gazing X- and Y-coordinates, time stamps, and confidence levels.

A sample data set from Labvanced’s eye tracking app is shown below in Fig. 2.

View of eye tracking data and arrays generated by Labvanced's app

Fig 2: Time series data view display with the last four columns of: x-coordinate, y-coordinate, UNIX time, and confidence scores.

The confidence level (column C) has to do with how confident we are of the measurement and is impacted by when blinking occurs. Measurements from wide-open eyes receive more confidence than measurements from an eye that is half-open or in the process of blinking.

Practice setting up your own eye tracking study in Labvanced by following our step-by-step walkthroughopen in new window.

Head and Mouse Tracking

Related to eye tracking are head and mouse tracking which researchers are interested in quantifying since both have been associated with attention.

For example, head movement is very popular in developmental psychologyopen in new window as toddlers and infants show exaggerated movement with their bodies when paying attention to a stimulus or object. Thus, instead of simply moving their eyes, they are likely to orient their entire body and head towards the object they are attending to.

For mouse tracking in psychological research, it is useful for quantifying consumer behavior. Also, some software use mouse tracking as a proxy or correlation for attention. However, this has had some criticisms.

Head and mouse tracking undoubtedly provide useful insights and information to participant’s behavior and attention, especially if the experimental question and methodology align with these two techniques. However, acquiring eye tracking data is generally considered as the best approach for cognitive research as eye movements are directly related to the visual field and which stimuli are being attended to.

Eye Tracking Methodology

For psychology research experiments, there are a few common approaches and methods that can be used for implementing eye tracking technology.

The major division is whether to use:

  • In-lab technology: Usually really expensive equipment that is already a part of the lab. For example, EyeLink is a piece of eye tracking equipment that can be had in the lab. While it is pricey, it is considered as the gold standard of eye tracking technology.
  • Remote technology: Solutions that take the eye measurements outside of the lab are also popular, like online apps or software that makes use of webcams, because they allow participants to partake in experiments remotely, ultimately reaching a wider audience. Labvanced’s eye tracking falls in this category.

Both in-lab and remote technology have their pros and cons.

Eye Tracking Research

Theoretically, any area of psychology can use eye tracking software and technology as a part of its research methodology, depending on the research question. Here are a few examples of how the major areas of psychology can employee eye tracking:

  • Cognitive & Neuro Psychology: For attentional change blindness, to measure at what point a participant shifts attention to a particular stimuli.
  • Personality & Social Psychology: For social cues, can implement videos and watch where the participant allots their attention in social scenes.
  • Behavioral Psychology: For reinforcement, can measure how positive or negative reinforcement subsequently affects eye movements and attentional processes.
  • Developmental & Educational Psychology: Can quantify preferential looking in toddlers by measuring which stimuli they find more interesting and spend more time attending to.
  • Clinical & Health Psychology: Studies across various populations assess how their visual system and attentional processes function under certain conditions. For example, studies interested in autism may gather eye movement data and compare differences across various stimuli.
  • Marketing & Consumer Psychology: In marketing and consumer psychology, researchers may want to quantify which products participants spend more time attending to.
  • Sports & Movement Psychology: For determining what areas of the playing field or what situations are given more attention to or priority by athletes.

Depending on the research question, eye tracking can be incorporated in virtually any field of psychology.

Conclusion

With eye tracking technology, whether it is expensive equipment or online-based tracking, researchers collect data about the participants’ visual field and the stimuli being attended to. By measuring eye movements (sometimes with head and mouse tracking involved), an experiment gains an extra layer of information as researchers can study attentional processes across multiple domains.

More information about how to run eye tracking research, including how to set up such an experiment in Labvanced is covered in our YouTube playlist, but also reach out if you have any questions: