The diagnostic potential of eye tracking and pupilometry in the context of spatial thinking


Fehringer, Benedict C. O. F.



Document Type: Doctoral dissertation
Year of publication: 2019
Place of publication: Mannheim
University: Universität Mannheim
Evaluator: Münzer, Stefan
Date of oral examination: 19 February 2019
Publication language: English
Institution: Außerfakultäre Einrichtungen > Graduate School of Economic and Social Sciences- CDSS (Social Sciences)
School of Social Sciences > Bildungspsychologie (Münzer 2012-)
Subject: 150 Psychology
Keywords (English): spatial thinking , visualization , psychological testing , eye tracking , pupillometry
Abstract: Eye tracking and pupillometry are promising techniques in the context of psychological diagnostics. Standard tests are usually based on accuracy and/or reaction times as critical measures for ability estimation. Deeper insights in how participants solve certain tasks or why they fail can mostly be detected insufficiently by those measures. In contrast, gaze fixation patterns are able to reflect cognitive processes while a participant is solving a specific task. Furthermore, pupillary-based measures can indicate the cognitive workload. Hence, eye tracking and pupillometry have the potential to improve psychological tests by providing information to establish sophisticated cognitive processing models that allow obtaining a differential profile of a participant. The goal of the present studies was to reveal this potential in the context of spatial thinking by demonstrating how and which prerequisites has to be performed to be able to establish such a cognitive processing model. In the first four studies, the R-Cube-Vis test was developed and validated to overcome the drawbacks of standard spatial thinking test with respect to the usage of eye tracking. The R-Cube-Vis test measures the first factor of spatial thinking, visualization, and was developed as short and long version. For comparison reasons, the R-CubeSR test was developed and validated in addition, measuring the second factor of spatial thinking, spatial relations. The studies’ results indicate high evidence of discriminant and convergent validity of each test for different investigated measures and tasks. Additionally, the studies delivered strong evidence for conformity of the R-Cube-Vis test with the linear logistic test model with six difficulty levels. In the fifth study, various gaze-fixation-based indicators were analyzed to identify item-independent patterns indicating the cognitive processes that are presumably necessary to solve an item versus item-dependent patterns that only reflect random characteristics of the item’s visual appearance that, however, are not connected with the demanded cognitive processes. In the second part of the fifth study, these indicators were analyzed regarding their potential to indicate test performance and the correctness of the answer of a single item. The sixth study investigated the Index of Cognitive Activity (ICA), a pupillarybased measure of cognitive workload, for its usage with the R-Cube-Vis test. In addition to the expected ordering (i.e., low ICA values for easier items and higher values for more difficult items), further aspects such as the effect of fatigue, hemispheric lateralization, and controlling of inter-individual differences were analyzed to derive recommendations for an appropriate usage. In the final application study, changes from the first to the last item within each of the six difficulty levels were analyzed for behavioral measures, self-assessment as well as eye-trackingbased and pupillary-based measures. All measures were also investigated with respect to differences between participants regarding their ability in visualization. The results showed the gain of information by gaze-related and pupillary-based measures that goes beyond the information from item accuracy and reaction times. Although no cognitive processing model was established, the studies demonstrate the high potential of gaze-related and pupillary-based measures for psychological testing but also show the necessary requirements for the stimulus materials as well as the need of preliminary work to be able to interpret the respective indicators in an appropriate way.

Dieser Eintrag ist Teil der Universitätsbibliographie.




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Fehringer, Benedict C. O. F. ORCID: 0000-0002-3988-964X (2019) The diagnostic potential of eye tracking and pupilometry in the context of spatial thinking. Mannheim [Doctoral dissertation]


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