Skip to main content

What is eye tracking?

close up of eye with coloured paint

Eye tracking can help researchers see what is grabbing people's attention – and what’s not.

In a nutshell

  1. Eye tracking glasses can be a powerful behaviour change methodology.
  2. Tracking eyesight allows researches to capture actual behaviour of users, as opposed to relying on reported behaviour.
  3. Eye tracking has a number of uses for marketers, organisations and brands, including product testing,  navigation/way-finding and UX research.

New technologies and innovations are constantly changing how we understand people and study the way they think, feel and behave. In the field of market research and behavioural science, one of the most exciting inventions of recent years are eye-tracking glasses – wearable technology that tracks the ultra-fine eye movements of the wearer.

This technology allows researchers to go beyond people self-reporting their own behaviour (a notoriously inaccurate practice) to instead track people’s actual behaviour – what they’re really paying attention to.

In this way, eye tracking glasses can be particularly useful for certain kinds of research, and ultimately be a powerful behavioural science methodology for capturing actual behaviour.

Actual behaviour vs. reported behaviour

One of the golden rules of behavioural science is to try capture actual behaviour, not reported behaviour. There are numerous reasons why reported behaviour isn’t always reliable, such as:

The best practice for accurate research is to always try capture actual behaviour. Whether that’s looking at behavioural data (such as engagement metrics, click through rates, call centre volumes, cycling and traffic counters etc.), CCTV footage, running RCTs, A/B testing or pre and post trials, behavioural observation, or this case – eye tracking.

Zoom out, and zoom in

While the bigger picture context is crucial, specificity can often give us the insight we’re after.

Eye tracking glasses are great at giving us the specificity – they can show us exactly what feature on a sign, product, website or aisle that people are homing in on that general video capture or video diaries cannot.

In this way, marketers, organisations and brands can use the data gleaned from eye tracking to discover where their audience is focusing their attention, and hone their messaging, campaign or product accordingly.

When to use eye-tracking

Here’s some examples of when eye-tracking can help provide great insights.

  • Physical product testing
  • Online/mobile product testing and UX research (the eye tracking glasses TRA uses can be used on digital screens)
  • Navigation and wayfinding research
  • In-store research
  • Creative concept testing

Context is crucial

Eye tracking glasses have come a long way since the original clunky models. TRA uses Pupil Lab Invisible glasses that closely resemble the classic Ray Ban wayfarer. This means participants can put the glasses on and go about their business in public without feeling like they are wearing a piece of tech equipment.

The context in which behaviour occurs is crucial. Do you act and talk the same way in front of your colleagues in the office compared to your mates at the pub?

As researchers, we aim to capture behaviour in the context in which it occurs, rather than in an experimental setting. This involves getting out of the focus group room and into the spaces where behaviour actually happens.

Eye tracking glasses allow us the unique opportunity to follow our research participants into their everyday lives – providing rare and invaluable insight.

Interested in eye tracking?

Get in touch with TRA’s Behavioural Insights Lead, Lindsey Horne to chat more about eye tracking research.

Lindsey Horne
Behavioural Insights Lead
With a background in neuroscience and applied behavioural science, Lindsey works across behaviour change projects with social and government clients. Her approach to behaviour change is holistic, from broader cultural and social change through to behavioural economics and nudges.

back to top

Discover more content

Stay in touch!

Sign up to receive our latest thinking straight to your inbox each month.