An examination of the effects of eye-tracking on behavior in psychology experiments. Academic Article uri icon


  • Eye-tracking is emerging as a tool for researchers to better understand cognition and behavior. However, it is possible that experiment participants adjust their behavior when they know their eyes are being tracked. This potential change would be considered a type of Hawthorne effect, in which participants alter their behavior in response to being watched and could potentially compromise the outcomes and conclusions of experimental studies that use eye tracking. We examined whether eye-tracking produced Hawthorne effects in six commonly used psychological scales and five behavioral tasks. The dependent measures were selected because they are widely used and cited and because they involved measures of sensitive topics, including gambling behavior, racial bias, undesirable personality characteristics, or because they require working memory or executive attention resources, which might be affected by Hawthorne effects. The only task where Hawthorne effects manifested was the mixed gambles task, in which participants accepted or rejected gambles involving a 50/50 chance of gaining or losing different monetary amounts. Participants in the eye-tracking condition accepted fewer gambles that were low in expected value, and they also took longer to respond for these low-value gambles. These results suggest that eye-tracking is not likely to produce Hawthorne effects in most common psychology laboratory tasks, except for those involving risky decisions where the probability of the outcomes from each choice are known.

published proceedings

  • Behav Res Methods

altmetric score

  • 0.25

author list (cited authors)

  • Worthy, D. A., Lahey, J. N., Priestley, S. L., & Palma, M. A.

citation count

  • 0

complete list of authors

  • Worthy, Darrell A||Lahey, Joanna N||Priestley, Samuel L||Palma, Marco A

publication date

  • March 2024