What is an eye-tracking task?
An eye-tracking task is a computer activity using a special equipment called an eye-tracker. An eye-tracker is a small device that tracks eye movements, in particular the movements of the pupils. The eye-tracker is placed on the table, under the computer screen, facing you. When you look at the computer screen, the eye-tracker detects, follows, and records the movements of your eyes, even the extremely quick, involuntary, and unconscious movements that you are not aware of. Thanks to the eye-tracker, researchers can find out which element or picture on the screen you look at first, and which one you look at the most. These are the elements that your brain focuses on the most, even though you may not even be aware of it. The eye-tracker is very useful to understand brain processes that you may not be aware of, and that you may not be able to put into words. It is also very useful for research with people who do not speak, or research with babies and toddlers.
Examples of an eye-tracking result. The left image shows the images arranged on the screen. The right image shows how the eye-tracker detects that the participant mostly looked at the woman’s face.
What happens during an eye-tracking task?
An eye-tracking task is as easy as any computer activity. No equipment is placed directly on you. First, you will sit comfortably in front of the computer. The researcher will set up the eye-tracker and calibrate it. This may take a few minutes. Then the researcher will get the computer tasks ready, and they will explain you the tasks and what you will have to do. If you have questions, please do feel free to ask them to the researcher.
When you are ready, you will begin the computer tasks. The tasks will depend on what the study is about. There might be one or several tasks. If there are several tasks you will be able to take breaks between each task. When you have finished the tasks, the researcher will turn of the eye-tracker, and you will move on to the next step of the appointment.
Photo of a participant doing an eye-tracking task. The eye-tracker is the black device placed just under the computer screen.
How to prepare for an eye-tracking task?
Except if the researcher tells you otherwise, this is nothing special to do before an eye-tracking task. Just come rested and relaxed!