Eye tracking cognitive load using pupil diameter and microsaccades with fixed gaze

Krzysztof Krejtz, Andrej T. Duchowski, Anna Niedzielska, Cezary Biele, Izabela Krejtz

2018 PLoS One, T. 13, z. 9, s. 1-23

Pupil diameter and microsaccades are captured by an eye tracker and compared for their suitability as indicators of cognitive load (as beset by task difficulty). Specifically, two metrics are tested in response to task difficulty: (1) the change in pupil diameter with respect to inter- or intra-trial baseline, and (2) the rate and magnitude of microsaccades. Participants performed easy and difficult mental arithmetic tasks while fixating a central target. Inter-trial change in pupil diameter and microsaccade magnitude appear to adequately discriminate task difficulty, and hence cognitive load, if the implied causality can be assumed. This paper’s contribution corroborates previous work concerning microsaccade magnitude and extends this work by directly comparing microsaccade metrics to pupillometric measures. To our knowledge this is the first study to compare the reliability and sensitivity of task-evoked pupillary and microsaccadic measures of cognitive load.