We’ve explored in depth the applications eye-tracking technology can have with assistive technology, market research, and fatigue detection, but one field that could do with some more digging is psychology.
There are topics within psychology that are commonly recognized for using eye-tracking technology, such as the ability to recognize and perhaps diagnose Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism, and William’s Syndrome; however, there are many exciting and innovative studies going on now that may come off as a surprise. One of them is body image.
The University of Freiburg Institute for Psychology in Germany used eye-tracking to determine body-related attention biases in people with anorexia nervosa, bulimia nervosa, and people without either disorder. Their findings not only outlined a key difference between the two eating disorders, demonstrating that people suffering from anorexia were more biased toward their own bodies than those with bulimia. The study resulted in some promising ideas for treating eating disorders based on both previous studies and the new information accumulated through the use of eye-tracking.
In another case, eye-tracking has also been used to study the way men feel about their own bodies. By using eye-tracking and exposing a group of men to either idealized or neutralized male photographs. The eye-tracking device was able to demonstrate where men paid the most attention when looking at another man’s body.
The study showed that men who focused more on the abdomen on idealized male figures reported a higher self-satisfaction than men who did not. Conversely, men who focused on the abdomen of neutralized male figures were more dissatisfied with their own bodies than men who did not. This was contrary to what the researchers hypothesized, but supports the concept of a “self-improvement” motive, where images of idealized men make men want to work harder and achieve that kind of goal, thus increasing their self-image.
Using eye-tracking in line with the human perception of one’s own body and the bodies of others is an interesting approach that has proven to be quite fruitful. From giving an insight on possible treatments to dangerous disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa to showing the benefits of idealized media on male self-satisfaction, eye-tracking technology is paving the way to a better understanding of the human mind.