Eye movements in decision making

eyeMy main research area is the role of eye movements in decision making, specifically the processes that drive eye movements. For instance, it is well known that what we look at during decision making is a function of our goals and the utility of the choice options (a top down process) as well as the visual characteristics of the environment (a bottom up process). However, most current decision models fail to take into account the bottom up process when describing visual search in decision making. I have written literature reviews on the drivers of eye movements in decision making (Orquin & Mueller Loose, 2013; Peschel & Orquin, 2013) and together with my Ph.D student Erik S. Lahm, I am currently working on a meta-analysis of top down and bottom up processes in eye movements. Besides the theoretical interest, understanding the drivers of eye movements is useful for creating interventions that capture consumer attention. I have reviewed methods for enhancing consumer attention to nutrition labels (Graham, Orquin, & Visschers, 2012) and lately developed a new method for guiding decision makers’ eye movements using (un)predictable object locations (Orquin, Chrobot, & Grunert, 2017).

Consumer decision-making competence

Another important topic in my research is consumer decision-making competence. I was introduced to this topic during my Ph.D. in which I examined whether and how product claims and labels are misleading consumers. In a recent book chapter, I explored the boundaries of consumer manipulability (Orquin, 2017). Despite the consensus that consumers are vulnerable and easy to manipulate, I find in my own studies that this far from true. Supposedly misleading product claims do not necessarily influence consumers (Orquin & Scholderer, 2015) mainly because consumers seem to rely on a set of heuristics (rules of thumb) that apply well in most situations (Orquin, 2014). In a recent paper with Sonja Perkovic (Perkovic & Orquin, 2017), we explored how seemingly misguided consumer beliefs about organic food healthfulness actually reflect a fundamental truth about the environment: organic foods are, on average and across product categories, 30% more healthful than conventional foods.

Eye-tracking methodology

eye_trackerEye-tracking methodology is one of my smaller research areas, but certainly one close to my heart. Rather than a full methodology program, I write papers on eye tracking when I am puzzled about a methods issue. For instance, since my Ph.D., I was always wondering about the best method for assigning areas of interest (AOI; a common data aggregation technique). This later led to a paper in which we propose clear guidelines for assigning AOIs (Orquin, Ashby, & Clarke, 2016). A similar story led to a recent paper with Kenneth Holmqvist where we propose a list of threats to the validity of eye-movement research (Orquin & Holmqvist, 2017).

Physiology and emotions in decision making

Last but not least, I am very interested in the influence of physiology and emotions on decision making. My interest was sparked during my P.D. while reading Robert Kurzban’s book “Why everyone else is a hypocrite” in which he described the ego depletion resource model. The theory which has been adopted by Barack Obama and a score of researchers suggests that willpower is a direct function of blood glucose levels: low blood glucose = low resistance to temptation. In his book, Robert heavily opposed the model on theoretical grounds. Working with food scientists, I knew of studies that directly falsified the theory, so I decided to meta-analyze these papers. It took five years before the paper was published in Psychological Bulletin (Orquin & Kurzban, 2016). The result: A clear falsification of ego depletion theory. I am currently working on experiments to test these findings.