Stiftung Lesen logo

Headquarters: Mainz, Germany
Founded: 1988
Industry: Literacy and reading advocacy

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Stiftung Lesen (German Reading Foundation) is a non-profit organization that runs a range of initiatives, programs, and research to better understand and support literacy skills among children and young people. Learn more at www.stiftunglesen.de/

Assessing reading habits with eye tracking

Close to eight million people in Germany struggle with reading, and as one of the peak bodies for promoting literacy, Stiftung Lesen (German Reading Foundation) wants to change that. As part of its activities, the organization conducts research into the behaviors and reading habits of young people and adults.

“The use of eye tracking opens up the possibility to measure authentic behavior from the point of view of the subject.”

Dr. Simone C. Ehmig
Leader of Stiftung Lesen’s Institue for Reading and Media Research

The question

The organization wanted to understand how young adults use written language in their everyday lives, including reading, writing, media usage, and active participation in online media. The aim of this was to be able to explore new methods for research in the field of reading behavior and media consumption. The main questions researchers had were about where, when, and how participants consume written material or communicate themselves in writing, what role media plays in this, and also what role it has in communication with others.

The method

Stiftung Lesen worked with Tobii Pro’s research consultancy division, Tobii Pro Insight, to run a pilot study on the reading/writing behavior and media usage of 18- to 24-year-olds. The participants were asked to wear eye tracking glasses as much as possible over a two-day period while they continued regular activities such as watching TV, reading, using their smartphones, meeting with friends etc. In total, 28 hours of video was recorded for analysis.

The outcome

The data was analyzed and the results sorted into categories like reading, writing, media usage, and active participation in online media. High-level statistics were also extracted in order to provide an overview of the subjects' attention to different media formats such as phones, tablets, computers, TV, printed materials, as well as outdoor advertisements and street signs.

With this data Tobii Pro and Stiftung Lesen hosted a series of workshops where students interpreted and reflected upon the gaze videos from different angles. Several hypotheses were formulated from these discussions, to be investigated in the future.

Read the study