5 Misconceptions about Eye Tracking

24. 01. 2020
Eye Tracking is becoming more and more incorporated into studies by UX experts and researchers. Unfortunately, lack of eye tracking expertise created many misunderstandings...


Eye tracking is only about heat maps

Heat maps have always been the face of eye tracking. Of course, with heat maps you can see where someone has looked, however without context heat maps can be easily misinterpreted.
Some researchers are not familiar with the idea that visual attention can be measured in a number of ways. Some are also under the impression that there are only one or two measures that come from eye tracking but that is not the case, there are more than 15 to 20 metrics that you can measure eye tracking. There are fixations and gaze points, areas of interest, time to first fixation, time spent ratio, fixation sequence, average fixation duration, and more. When interpreting heatmaps it is always best to ask for the metrics because metrics are the only objective way to explain heat maps.

Eye tracking results are easy to understand

"We simply need to know where they are looking," is regularly mentioned as a goal for most researchers. People with this concept on seem to think that if they were aware of where clients were looking, they would know how the interface needed to be improved. Some will eventually understand that there is no simple interpretation between where your attention goes and design recommendation, which will bring about the question of "so what?". It is often neglected to understand that eye tracking outcomes uncover the "what," but not yet the "why."
Properly preparing can make eye tracking easier to interpret. So, with no end goal you can collect data, however you will not have the understanding of the data. Things like scales, goals, and comparisons could assist you in collecting results that are easier to interpret.

Every dot is where a person has looked and what they saw

Thankfully research grade eye tracking devices have surfaced and made the field of study much easier and a lot more accurate. When utilizing quality devices every fixation is always the place that your eyes has stopped. This is actually a very objective method because it is based on the human physiology. Even with long sessions of eye tracking factors like slouching or looking away will not interrupt the accuracy of the data collected. It is worth it to invest in the best devices for better results.
This can in fact be a very inaccurate statement especially when you take into account the quality of the devices used. With low quality devices (for e.g. regular webcams)  it is not abnormal for there to be at least a centimeter difference between the gaze point and what the actual participant is actually looking at. Also considering the length of time of the study the difference can increase as the position of the participant may change from the cameras that captures the eye activity. When having devices that are not top quality it’s important to consider both the flawed tracking accuracy and the change of positions by the participant during the study.

Anyone can do eye tracking

Producers of eye trackers do their best to make their equipment and programming simple to utilize. However, in the event that anybody can do eye tracking, wouldn't more systems be sold? There is nothing wrong with devices that are anything but difficult to utilize and make scientists more proficient. Sure, anyone could do eye tracking due to the lack of restrictions, however the real question is will they be able to do it the right way? Quality eye tracking includes much more than handling a controller or reading heat maps.

Also, it includes some background knowledge of how the eyes function, previous research, techniques, and insights, in addition to other things. Knowing how to prepare the research without influencing the participant is very important when collecting objective data. This technique within itself can take some time and experience to develop.

Eye tracking allows you to see what people are thinking

Eye tracking only gives you an idea of what people are looking at. These results cannot prove if someone wants something or dislikes something. For instance, you can look into a refrigerator to get some yogurt, however milk is the first thing you see. Technically you do not want milk, it is just something that your eyes came in contact with while you were looking for yogurt. Eye tracking works the same way, it only shows what you see and not what you are thinking.
However, the way you conduct your study can determine if you can get an idea of how a person thinks. Going back to properly preparing the study, eye tracking only helps you to see what a person is looking at. When you notice a person is looking at something you can then ask the person what exactly is it that they’re thinking. Now the participant can tell you what they are thinking without you ever influencing their thought process. 


Even though these are 5 misconceptions each and every one of them goes back to the same factor and that is properly preparing for your research. Considering all of these misconceptions, is eye-tracking right for my company? In fact, it is, eye tracking is highly recommended to improve and better products and services. To find out more details and topics about eye tracking visit our blog page for more articles. 

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