Eye tracking applied to tobacco smoking: current directions and future perspectives
Over the years the general awareness of the health costs associated with tobacco smoking has motivated scientists to apply the measurement of eye movements to this form of addiction. On one hand they have investigated whether smokers attend and look preferentially at smoking related scenes and objects. In parallel, on the other hand eye tracking has been used to test how smokers and nonsmokers interact with the different types of health warning that policymakers have mandated in tobacco advertisements and packages. Here we provide an overview of the main findings from the different lines of research, such as the evidence related to the attentional bias for smoking cues in smokers and the evidence that graphic warning labels and plain packages measurably increase the salience of the warning labels. We point to some open questions, such as the conditions that determine whether heavy smokers exhibit a tendency to actively avoid looking at graphic warning labels. Finally we argue that the research applied to gaze exploration of warning labels would benefit from a more widespread use of the more naturalistic testing conditions (e.g. mobile eye tracking or virtual reality) that have been introduced to study the smokers’ attentional bias for tobacco-related objects when freely exploring the surrounding environment.
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