ISSN 1671-3710
CN 11-4766/R

Advances in Psychological Science ›› 2022, Vol. 30 ›› Issue (8): 1794-1803.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1042.2022.01794

• Research Method • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The prospect of gaze manipulation technology in decision-making research: Altering decision-making

LIN Jiao-Min1, LI Ai-Mei2, ZHOU Ya-Ran2, HE Jun-Hong1, ZHOU Lei1()   

  1. 1School of Management, Guangdong University of Technology, Guangzhou 510520, China
    2School of Management, Jinan University, Guangzhou 510632, China
  • Received:2021-06-09 Online:2022-08-15 Published:2022-06-23
  • Contact: ZHOU Lei


The eye-tracking technique has been widely used in behavioural decision-making research owing to its advantages: 1) does not interfere with the decision-making process, 2) objectively collects information and 3) provides accurate and rich process data. To reveal the causality between eye movement and decision making, gaze manipulation could be utilised to examine whether shifting visual attention can alter choice behaviour. Gaze manipulation is classified into two types: exogenous manipulation and gaze-contingent manipulation. The two types of gaze manipulation have the same goals but have different characteristics, thus typically limiting their use for different research areas.

Researchers can use exogenous manipulations, including spatial cueing, visual salience and exposure time to enforce participants’ bias towards attending to a particular stimulus since the initial stage of decision making and to alter their choice finally. Fixation count and fixation duration are two common indexes used for exogenous manipulation. One of the limitations of exogenous manipulation is participants’ possible susceptibility to the demand effect. Participants might infer that the stimulus which presents for longer or brighter is the one they are supposed to choose. Designing the framework of exogenous manipulation experiment is easy, and its conclusion has profound significance in our daily life. Therefore, exogenous manipulation can be used to explore which marketing methods can effectively promote customer purchasing and how to improve the effectiveness of advertising design in consumer behaviour research.

Gaze-contingent manipulation is an experimental paradigm that interrupts decision makers’ decision processes on the basis of their gaze behaviour. In this paradigm, participants’ gaze is monitored and information relating to their fixation duration in a trial is used to trigger the decision prompt and remind participants to indicate their choice. Last fixation and fixation duration are two common manipulation indexes in such research. This paradigm overcomes the negative impact on the demand effect because researchers need not change the stimuli. However, participants’ eye movements may occasionally fail to trigger the decision prompt which might then generate timed-out trials. Gaze-contingent manipulation has been widely used in consumption choice, intertemporal choice, risky choice, moral choice and cognitive choice, among others, to explore the causal link between eye movement and decision making and to test and compare different decision models on the basis of the decision-making process.

Gaze manipulation study has crucial theoretical and practical significance. On the one hand, examining the causal link between eye movement and decision making may help test and compare different decision-making models to provide process evidence that will support the hypotheses of decision-making models. On the other hand, gaze manipulation can alter decision-makers’ choices on the condition that researchers need not change the value of the choice and interfere with the decision-making process. Thus, it can provide ideas to improve decision making from the perspective of information processing.

To improve the gaze manipulation experiment and cater for practical needs, we give three suggestions to advance gaze manipulation study. Firstly, future research should fully consider the differences in individual preference and choice strategy to reduce the number of timed-out trials. Before the experiment, researchers should test individual preference and choice strategy differences under different parameters and set unique stimuli for each participant. Secondly, future research should integrate gaze manipulation with computational modelling or other methods to enrich the manipulation indexes. By computational modelling, researchers can determine key indexes with high explanatory power for outcome and improve the effectiveness of gaze manipulation. By machine learning, researchers can remove the redundancy from massive data and effectively and accurately determine manipulation indexes. Thirdly, in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, future research should extend the research field to human resource management and provide suggestions for the changing work style.

Key words: gaze manipulation technology, exogenous manipulation, gaze-contingent manipulation, choice preference, causal link

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