Understanding the Basics of Eye Tracking Research

Louise Principe
Apr 06, 2023

When going window shopping or skimming through a magazine, you may come across something you could describe as “eye-catching.” But why is that? Maybe it’s because the design stood out, or perhaps the messaging resonated with you.

As we humans interact with our surroundings, our gaze tends to skip over some things and linger on others. Scientifically, it takes .25 seconds for our brains to register visual cues but only 13 milliseconds for those cues to elicit emotion – even without fully absorbing what our eyes are seeing.

In market research, this could have significant effects. Understanding where, when, and what consumers look at helps businesses optimize branding to grab their market’s attention and boost performance.

To capture this data, eye tracking research is conducted. In this article, we’ll explore the fundamentals of eye tracking technology and how it can balance art and science to help you make something memorable.

What is Eye Tracking Market Research?

Eye tracking technology utilizes near-infrared light and a high-resolution camera to detect the movement and position of a person’s eyes. The near-infrared light is projected towards the eyes to produce a reflection in the cornea and pupil, which is then captured by cameras to track gaze direction in real-time.

The eye tracking data determines what a respondent looks at on a screen or in their surroundings. This can be analyzed in various ways, such as measuring the duration and frequency of eye movements, pinpointing areas of interest, and recognizing patterns in visual attention.

To See is to Think

In 1596, the French anatomist and medical scientist Du Laurens famously stated that the eyes serve as the windows to the mind. Since then, eye tracking research has been conducted for nearly 150 years and has found diverse applications across various fields.

In the consumer insights industry, using an eye tracker for research allows you to gain insights into how respondents engage with visual stimuli, such as advertisements, user interfaces, and virtual environments.

Essentially, this type of research technology enables real-time monitoring of a range of eye movements that indicate different emotional, cognitive, and physiological states – providing valuable insights into the inner workings of the human mind.

Types of Eye Tracking

There are three main types of eye tracking techniques used in market research: remote eye tracking, head-mounted eye tracking, and webcam-based eye tracking.

  • Remote eye tracking: This technique records eye movements at a distance without attaching the eye tracking device to the respondent. Remote trackers could be used for screen-based stimulus materials in a lab setting.
  • Head-mounted eye tracking: These trackers are mounted onto lightweight eyeglass frames or VR headsets to capture close-range eye activity. This allows participants to walk around and interact with their natural environment, making them ideal for ethnographic research.
  • Webcam-based eye tracking: This method uses a standard laptop or desktop webcam, providing a cost-effective alternative to eye tracking market research. It’s used to measure basic eye movements such as fixations and saccades. However, data accuracy highly depends on the quality of the webcam and the calibration process.

Eye Tracking Insights

Eye tracking data uncovers valuable insights into consumer behavior by measuring visual attention. Here are six key metrics to look for in eye tracking data:

  • Heat maps - Show which areas received the most visual attention and can help identify areas for optimization.
  • Fixation and gaze points - Indicate when and where respondents look at specific objects.
  • Scan patterns and fixation sequences - Reveal the order in which respondents viewed different elements to help optimize layout and positioning.
  • Time to first fixation - Indicates what specific AOI stands out and drives attention.
  • Time spent - Quantifies the time spent on an AOI and can often indicate motivation and conscious attention.
  • Areas of interest (AOI) -  Measures the performance of specific regions within a stimulus.


Eye tracking technology is a powerful tool for market research, enabling real-time monitoring of a person’s gaze to provide valuable insights into their cognitive and emotional states. By understanding the fundamentals of eye tracking research and the key metrics to look for in eye movement data, businesses can better understand consumer behavior to create more impactful marketing campaigns.

Dive into the World of Eye-Tracking with Civicom® Marketing Research Services

Civicom® Marketing Research Services is the global leader in providing web-enabled solutions for your project success. We provide online IDI and focus group facilitation, mobile research, respondent recruitment, plus other customized solutions for your market research needs. See how we can blend various technologies to support your eye-tracking project.

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