Attention is the foundation for examining how audiences respond to media messages. Although researchers have used a variety of methods to study viewer attention to visual media, no method provides as much detail as eye tracking. The CCR houses two eye-tracking labs that permit the moment-by-moment study of attention to video, still images, or web content.
Lab Hardware. In our Eye Tracking Labs, viewers can watch videos, images, or websites while seated at a computer workstation. A researcher sits at another station to monitor their gaze and ensure quality of the data throughout the viewing period. Gaze data is continuously recorded 120 times a second to measure how much time is spent viewing specific message elements, like parts of a video, online news story, or element within a website. The software also allows us to examine which elements are viewed in what order, or how long it takes a viewer to look at a specific part of a message.
Both labs are equipped with non-invasive eye tracking hardware from Applied Science Laboratories, and data collection is controlled using GazeTracker software. The system uses a small housing located just below the viewer’s monitor to examine gaze position, and the data collection and gaze calibration is controlled by a researcher in the lab.
Sample Study: Information Graphics in Sports Television. The CCR’s Eye Tracking Labs have been used for a number of academic studies to examine attention to television and online content. For example, researchers recently used the lab to during the 2012 World Series to study individual differences that impact attention to information graphics that appeared throughout the game, like batter statistics, the game score, or other information. Researchers quantified precisely how much time viewers spent looking at these message elements, as well as how frequently gaze was diverted to these areas of the screen.
Other applications of eye tracking could combine posttest questionnaires with precise measures of visual attention to examine links between attention and perception and memory for content.