Fixating, attending, and observing: a behavior analytic eye-movement analysis


Publication date


Series/Report no

European Journal of Behavior Analysis;16(2)



Document type


The use of eye-tracking technology to study eye-movements has increased substantially over the last decade. For instance, areas that relate to image scanning, matching-to-sample learning, driving, and reading exhibit this trend. Despite the fact that eye-tracking technology reveals a participant’s eye-movement and fixation pattern during an experiment, when can we say that he or she has emitted an ocular observing response to a visual discriminative stimulus? The purpose of the present article is to focus on some influential publications on the observing response and eye-fixation, investigated with eye-tracking technology, and thereby to provide a conceptual distinction between fixating, observing, and attending. Basically, (a) eye-fixations are detected by event-specific algorithms; (b) ocular observing responses occur with and without clear-cut eye-fixation; and (c) ocular observing responses are context-specific, hence, vary across behaviors, settings, and individuals. Finally, we describe in-depth dependent fixation measures as rate, number, proportion, and pattern to offer a broad view on how eye-tracking analysis can provide us with a better understanding of complex human behavior.


Permanent URL (for citation purposes)