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Stadler, Mara; Doebler, Philipp; Mertins, Barbara and Danhier, Renate Delucchi (2021): Statistical modeling of dynamic eye-tracking experiments: Relative importance of visual stimulus elements for gaze behavior in the multi-group case. In: Behavior Research Methods, Vol. 53, No. 6: pp. 2650-2667

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This paper presents a model that allows group comparisons of gaze behavior while watching dynamic video stimuli. The model is based on the approach of Coutrot and Guyader (2017) and allows linear combinations of feature maps to form a master saliency map. The feature maps in the model are, for example, the dynamically salient contents of a video stimulus or predetermined areas of interest. The model takes into account temporal aspects of the stimuli, which is a crucial difference to other common models. The multi-group extension of the model introduced here allows to obtain relative importance plots, which visualize the effect of a specific feature of a stimulus on the attention and visual behavior for two or more experimental groups. These plots are interpretable summaries of data with high spatial and temporal resolution. This approach differs from many common methods for comparing gaze behavior between natural groups, which usually only include single-dimensional features such as the duration of fixation on a particular part of the stimulus. The method is illustrated by contrasting a sample of a group of persons with particularly high cognitive abilities (high achievement on IQ tests) with a control group on a psycholinguistic task on the conceptualization of motion events. In the example, we find no substantive differences in relative importance, but more exploratory gaze behavior in the highly gifted group. The code, videos, and eye-tracking data we used for this study are available online.

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