Looks are (almost) everything: Where drivers look to get information

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations


Objective: To describe the impact of Rockwell's early eye movements research. Background: The advent of a new technology enabling measurements of eye movements in natural environments launched the seminal research of a Human Factors pioneer, Tom Rockwell, into how drivers process visual information. Method: In two seminal Human Factors articles -"Mapping Eye-Movement Pattern to the Visual Scene in Driving: An Exploratory Study" (Mourant & Rockwell, 1970) and "Strategies of Visual Search by Novice and Experienced Drivers" (Mourant & Rockwell, 1972) - Rockwell and his student, Ron Mourant, examined drivers' eye movements in naturalistic driving environments. Results: The analyses of the visual fixations revealed systematic relationships between the sources of information the drivers needed to drive safely and the spatial distributions of their visual fixations. In addition, they showed that as drivers gain skill and experience, their pattern of fixations changes in a systematic manner. Conclusions: The research demonstrated that fixations and saccadic eye movements provide important insights into drivers' visual search behavior, information needs, and information acquisition processes. Application: This research has been a cornerstone for a myriad of driving-related studies, by Rockwell and other researchers. Building on Rockwell's pioneering work, these studies used eye-tracking systems to describe cognitive aspects of skill acquisition, and the effects of fatigue and other impairments on the process of attention and information gathering. A novel and potentially revolutionary application of this research is to use eye movement recordings for vehicle control and activation of in-vehicle safety systems.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)380-384
Number of pages5
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1 Jun 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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