Visual attention during decision-making in natural environments

Abstract: This thesis investigates visual attention during decision-making in natural environments in four different studies. The first study demonstrated that decisions in the supermarket were suboptimal and this did not seem to relate to the amount of products attended to or the amount of time spent on each product. Consumers also failed to look at a subsection of products that better suited their preferences. The second study investigated the ‘central gaze bias’ found in lab-based eye tracking. The results from a monitor setting were compared to a real supermarket shelf. The distribution of visual attention was significantly closer to the centre of the shelf in the monitor condition compared to the supermarket. In the third study the visual behaviour of consumers buying (or searching for) products in a supermarket was measured and used to analyse the stages of their decision process. Existing models of the stages of the decision-making process were refined and revealed differences between a decision-making task and a search task. In particular the second (evaluation) stage of a decision task contained more re-dwells than the second stage of a comparable search task. The fourth study took a closer look at interacting cognitive processes during decision-making and their impact on visual attention. Participants’ visual attention during decisions was sensitive to evaluations made already during encoding and decisions were strongly characterized by preferential looking to to-be-chosen options.