Protocol for a Remote Webcam-based Eye-Tracking Experiment for Examining Visual Attention to Tobacco Marketing Materials

JMIR Research Protocols

By Julia Chen-Sankey PhD; Maryam Elhabashy BA; Stefanie Gratale PhD; Jason Geller PhD; Melissa Mercincavage PhD; Andrew A Strasser PhD; Cristine D Delnevo PhD; Michelle Jeong PhD; Olivia A Wackowski PhD in Research

January 15, 2023



Background: Eye-tracking provides an objective way to measure attention, which can advance researchers’ and policymakers’ understanding of tobacco marketing influences. The development of remote webcam-based eye-tracking technology, integrated with online crowdsourcing studies, may be a cost-effective and time-efficient alternative to laboratory-based eye-tracking methods. However, research is needed to evaluate the utility of remote eye-tracking methods.

Objective: To detail the process of designing a remote webcam-based eye-tracking experiment and provide data on associations between participant characteristics and the outcomes of completing the experiment. Methods: N= 2,023 young adult (aged 18–34 years) cigarette smokers in the US were recruited to complete an online survey that included a 90-second remote eye-tracking experiment that examined attention to e-cigarette marketing materials. Primary outcome measures assessed the completion of the remote eye-tracking experiment, specifically:(1) experiment initiated vs. not initiated;(2) experiment completed vs. not completed; and (3) usable vs. non-usable eye-tracking data generated. Multivariable logistic regressions examined the associations between outcome measures and participants’ socio-demographic backgrounds, tobacco use history, and electronic devices (mobile vs. desktop) used during the experiment.

Results: Study recruitment began April 14, 2022 and ended May 3, 2022. Among all survey participants, 93.3% (n=1,887) initiated the experiment, 38.4% (n=777) completed the experiment, and 18.8% (n=381) generated usable data. Among those who completed the experiment, 49.0% generated usable data. Results from the full regression models show that non-Hispanic Black participants (AOR=0.64, 95% CI=0.45, 0.91) were less likely to complete the eye-tracking experiment than non-Hispanic White participants. Additionally, female (vs. male) participants (AOR=1.46, 95% CI=1.01, 2.11), those currently (vs. not) using ecigarettes (AOR=2.08, 95% CI=1.13, 3.82), and those who used mobile (vs. desktop) devices (AOR=5.10, 95% CI=3.05, 8.52) were more likely to generate usable eye-tracking data.

Conclusions: Young adult participants were willing to try remote eye-tracking technology, and nearly half of those who completed the experiment generated usable eye-tracking data. Thus, we believe that the use of remote eye-tracking tools, integrated with crowdsourcing recruitment, can be a useful approach for the tobacco regulatory science research community to collect quality, large-scale eye-tracking data in a timely fashion and thereby address research questions in the ever-evolving tobacco marketing landscape. It would be useful to investigate techniques for how to enhance completion rates and data usability.

Posted on:
January 15, 2023
2 minute read, 368 words
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