FDA Studies Eye Tracking

By Conan Milner, Epoch Times
July 9, 2013 10:01 am Last Updated: July 9, 2013 10:01 am

Food regulators want better insight into how consumers perceive product labels. In a July 3 Federal Register notice, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted its request to do studies involving eye-tracking.

Eye tracking offers a glimpse into how people process visual information. The technology traces eye movement to reveal which design elements attract an individual’s attention and which ones are glossed over or ignored.

FDA says data gleaned from their eye tracking experiments will help them guide consumers to make better informed dietary decisions and design better questionnaires for further testing. 

The agency says that studying how consumers respond to visual elements on a package (from product claims and logos, to the table of nutritional facts) will offer clues as to how these images impact a busy shopper’s food choices.

FDA’s proposal outlines two experiments. One is to be done in a laboratory using mock up label images to gauge consumer reaction to specific components of package information and design. In this study, participants will view a series of labels on a computer and answer questions about their perceptions and behavioral intention.

The other experiment will be conducted in stores to see what specific information shoppers notice while they’re actually making a purchase. This study will gather eye-movement data to determine the “subconscious and conscious factors that influence food purchases.” Regulators want to see whether product familiarity or personal needs will cause variations in how shoppers perceive labels, and whether design elements influence their purchasing decisions. 

Regulators say that study results “will neither be used to develop population estimates nor be directly used to inform policy,” but will instead help the agency “identify and develop more effective labeling information and education in the future.” 

Comments on the notice are due Aug. 2.