Eye Tracking Adds a New Dimension in Experimental Economic

The WISO-Research Lab at the University of Hamburg in Germany has equipped their lab with thirty eye trackers in order to better understand cognitive processes behind decision making when running their economic research.

A researcher at the Hamburg University lab point out to a heatmap.

“In the WISO-Research Lab, eye tracking is implemented in such a discreet way that the tracking moves nicely in the background of our economic decision experiments; thus, adding a new neuro/physiological-measurement dimension to our research projects.”

Olaf Bock, Lab Manager, Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences, Hamburg University

The customer

The WISO-Research Lab at the University of Hamburg in Germany is the school’s main source for social and economic empirical research. This state-of-the-art behavioral lab carries out research projects for economists testing the assumption of neo-classical economic theories. 

The Goal

Through this research, the WISO-Research Lab helps to improve and support the design of institutions in the economy, law, and politics.

The tests are usually programmed in a z-Tree code, a software package for developing and carrying out economic experiments. However, one of the main challenges for experimental economic studies is explaining the cognitive processes behind decision making.

The WISO-Research Lab partnered with Tobii Pro for their eye tracking technology, allowing them to observe the decision-making process while providing objective insights into the cognitive processes behind the decision making.

The approach

By adding eye tracking to their research toolkit, the lab managed to integrate the attention measurement of eye tracking into the classic economic experiment. The cross-validation of the calibration results is done through click-screen tests integrated into an experimental game.

The experimental data is generally delivered in a combination of eye tracking and z-tree data for statistical analysis in all common programs, as well as Tobii Pro Studio. This special integration of z-Tree and eye tracking data in zt-client, a software developed in the WISO-Research Lab, allows a conversion of the z-Tree "stage" structure into the "scene" structure of Pro Studio. Additionally, a central control software (Hawkeye) enables remote control of the eye tracking process at all 30 subject workstations simultaneously.

The WISO-Research Lab now offers an integration of eye tracking and z-Tree results. Delivered as Tobii Pro data, it allows for faster visualizations, as well as the export of raw data, for a more detailed analysis in statistical software packages. With the markers from the stage-scene conversion, eye tracking results can be cut automatically by z-Tree stages into Pro Studio.

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