Keeping (and tracking) an eye on your choices
Your eyes, or rather, what your eyes are looking at, play a big role in decision making. Your gaze not only gives away what you’re interested in, but can also influence what your choices will be.
This may not sound surprising— of course you look at things that interest you. But the trick is that you’re probably not aware of what you’re telegraphing as you do it. For example, when you look a menu in a restaurant, you spend more time looking at the item you want than anything else. When researchers track your eyes’ focus, they can successfully predict your choice.
It was assumed that this only applied to active choices, such as “would you like an apple or an orange?” But recent studies have found that this behavior also extends to other kinds of statements, such as personal morals. So just as you might fixate more on the word “apple” if that’s your preference, you’ll also fixate more on “stealing is wrong” if that’s what you agree with. That is, until your hand is forced on the issue.
Even though our eyes seem to know what we want or agree with before we declare it, they can also effectively reverse that decision if we’re under pressure. In one eye-tracking study, participants were told to announce their answer to a moral question at certain moments. Those moments were selected by the computer to coincide with when the participant was looking at their less-preferred answer, based on the amount of time they spent looking at their choices. When forced to answer immediately, people often picked whichever answer they were looking at at the time, even if it was not the choice they had seemingly selected in their head.
So if you’re under pressure, keep focused on your positive options. Otherwise you might just pick whatever vice is in front of you.
Source: Researchers track eye movements to sway moral decisions by Brian Owens, Nature