This Baylor expert’s research shows how our eyes reveal our response to marketing
If you’ve ever liked an advertisement, but been unable to fully express exactly what you found appealing about it, then you can begin to understand the value of Dr. JaeHwan Kwon’s research. With the help of a wand-sized infrared device, he tracks even the tiniest eye movements and facial expressions to see how and where people react to the images they see.
Kwon, an assistant professor of marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, uses an eye tracking device called the Tobii X2-60 to measure the physical and psychological reactions that most people are unable to explain. If you’re looking at an ad, and your eye fixates on a particular spot, the eye tracking device records that. If the image contains text, and you pay attention to some words more than others, that too is noted. For deeper insights, the eye tracking devices record physical reactions. For instance, when humans encounter something they particularly love or find surprising, their pupils dilate. That’s an involuntary response that most anyone would fail to notice, but the Tobii X2-60 reveals.
“In a typical psychology experiment, you’re really only able to evaluate outcomes — for example, ‘What do you prefer?’ But you don’t really know how they formed their evaluation,” Kwon says. “But with eye tracking data, I can see the process of how someone formed their evaluation, because they processed the text description more than the image, background image, and this text information led them to prefer the ad over another.”
It may seem obvious that many businesses use this type of technology to understand the effectiveness of certain ads or campaigns; Kwon’s research, however, is academic and focuses more broadly on psychology and consumer behavior. Specifically, how do people form an attitude towards something unfamiliar, such as a new brand or product?
Kwon and his research partners found in one key study that individuals who believe in fixed traits of personality — a more rigid approach to evaluating others — are more likely to fall in love with a product at first sight. Individuals who view personality traits as more malleable and able to change are more likely to be persuaded by the functional appeals of a product or brand. His work has appeared in PLOS One, the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, Journal of Advertising and a variety of other journals that shed light on behavior, decisions, marketing and more.
Sic ’em, Dr. Kwon!