Let’s face it – conducting multimodal studies most often involves juggling with a lot of moving parts. A complex experimental design, new respondents, different technologies, different hardware pieces, different operators. Let that sink in for a few moments. On top, you‘re under pressure to achieve high quality data. Unless you‘re an old hand in research, it admittedly can get quite overwhelming at times. We’ve all been there.

Let us cheer you up. What initially might strike you as a mammoth task actually is not as baffling as it seems. Put first things first and don’t miss the wood for the trees – the magic of good data actually begins way before data collection: Making sure of an ideal physical environment for your study is the first essential step toward best-possible data quality. In fact, if you shoot for great study results, you just can’t get around to thinking about how to create a proper study environment and what issues might arise along the way if you take poor lab conditions too lightly.

Providing the best-possible physical environment is the linchpin of your multimodal study

Clearly, one question that we are frequently asked involves the dos and don’ts of study setups integrating (different) biosensors. We care deeply about your concerns and thought it was about time to equip you with a number of helpful checklists that might come in handy when designing the physical framework for your human behavior research.

This week’s post will be the first in a dedicated series of good-to-knows that will help you take your study setup in stride.

Let’s start with eye tracking.

The following are our 5 sure-fire tips on what to keep in mind when setting up the physical environment for your eye tracking study to obtain strikingly good data. Have a look.

1. Respondents should feel comfortable.

Probably the number one rule in eye tracking research. After all, eye tracking studies wouldn’t be possible without respondents and their willingness to dedicate their spare time. It goes without saying that your respondents should feel at ease and as comfortable as possible throughout the study for the sake of their well-being (and your own happiness). Chances are discomfort will have a significant impact on your respondents’ attention and therefore on data quality.

  • Adjust the chair height to make sure your respondents are seated comfortably in a natural position with feet flat on the ground (use a footrest if necessary) and thighs parallel with the floor to avoid pressure points. There is nothing worse than having to sit straight and firm over a prolonged period of time in an uncomfortable, non-adjustable chair impeding circulation.
  • Adjust the height and/or depth of the lumbar support to provide comfortable lower back support. Really, most often it takes as little as offering a soft cushion for enhanced seating comfort or reclining slightly to take pressure off the lower back. Always be attentive and ask your respondents if they feel comfortable, especially if your study is designed to run several hours. Keep in mind that happy respondents are a prerequisite for maximum data quality.

2. The eyes need to be visible.

Make sure your eye tracker can track what it is supposed to – eyes. This might appear self-evident, however it is definitely worth a second thought: In order for the eye tracker to pick up eye movements successfully, your respondents’ eyes need to be clearly visible. Overly large, horn-rimmed glasses or hairstyles (heavy, side-swept bangs, for example) partially covering the eyes might obstruct visibility impeding calibration and accurate tracking of the eyes.

3. Proper lighting conditions are essential.

For eye tracking, lighting conditions are fundamental. Direct sunlight coming through windows contains infrared light that will impact the quality of your eye tracking measurements significantly. Close the blinds if you use a room with windows for your study. Also, avoid brightly lit rooms and overhead light. Ideally, use ambient lighting. Why?

  • It perfectly sets the scene and creates a comfortable atmosphere (once again, it’s all about making your respondents feel at ease).
  • It provides the optimal lighting condition for the eye tracker to pick up eye movements most accurately.

4. Keep distractions from the surroundings at a minimum.

Try to minimize movements in the field of your respondents’ view and noise from the surrounding environment (rooms, corridors, streets) as it most likely will distract your respondents and negatively affect measurement results.

If possible, have a dedicated room for your study without people walking around or frequently dropping by. Ideally, your room is situated in a remote, quiet area (at the end of a hallway, for example) without the daily hustle and buzzle distracting your respondents. It probably wouldn’t make too much sense to conduct a study around lunchtime in a room located next to the cafeteria or dining hall. You get the idea.

5. Eye trackers don’t get along with everyone.

Ask your respondents about any known impairments in their vision (lazy eye, severe astigmatism, glaucoma etc.) as they might compromise the tracking of the eyes or even make it impossible. It is important to obtain that kind of information right at the outset of your study to save your respondents’ time … and yours.

Get the full list of our best practices in eye tracking research and even more hands-on advice from our experts at iMotions – download our Pocket Guide to Eye Tracking now to learn all the tricks and push for maximum data quality.

Stay tuned for next week’s tips on how to acquire best-possible data with facial expression analysis in lab settings.

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