Studying differences in the patterns that people gaze can provide interesting information about behaviors and information processing.
In the figure below, researchers found that adults diagnosed with social phobia were more likely to look away if looking at angry faces. The idea is that these folks may by hypervigilant to possible negative reactions by others.
In a very different study, other researchers were using visual scan path data to assess mathematical problem solving (and their mistakes) by students. The visual fixation map below shows a student who spent all his time looking at the verbal description (blue) rather than at the algebraic expression (red).
The study even incorporated a computer-based feedback system that prompt a student with a reminder to read the instructions carefully if too little time was spent on fixating on key words in the instructions. By itself, this was a pretty simple study, but the investigators also went on to identify patterns in scanpaths that changed as students learned material, and correlated these eye movements with fMRI. They conclude with the idea that although fMRI scanners will never be seen in the classroom, infrared technology such as this might have some future use for focusing instruction and identifying common student errors.
Social Phobia and Visual Scanpaths
Visual Tracking and Mathematics Problem Solving