Technology helps track human choices

New eye-tracking technology is letting others see what drives human choice.

Engineers from Trinity College Dublin are using the technology to better understand how people interact with energy labels and how they absorb information about road safety and hazards.

They found that people do consider eco-labels but spend less time viewing information that they are less familiar with.

The study, funded under the Environmental Protection Agency’s research programme, opens the door to countless research possibilities.

The engineers placed an infrared beam below a computer screen that, together with software, records how much time is spent looking at information and in what order it is viewed.

Tracking pupil movement across computer screens produces heat maps and scan paths that explain which features are attracting attention and the preferred viewing order.

Associate professor of civil engineering at Trinity, Brian Caulfield, who is leading the work, said their results showed just how complex the process of absorbing new information could be.

“A huge number of factors can, and do, influence decisionmaking so it is really important that we better understand what motivates people, and why,” said Prof Caulfield.

“The first step is to understand how people interact with information and handle the different questions and options they are presented — these new eye-tracking approaches are invaluable in that regard,” he said.

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