Psychologists have been using eye tracking to study the human mind since the early part of the 19th century, and businesses have been using it to reveal consumer behavior for well over a decade. And now, it seems that the federal government is finally catching up.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) submitted a request to do eye tracking studies in a July 3 Federal Register notice. These studies will be conducted to help regulators glean insight into how consumers perceive product labels.


For example, eye tracking can show how people process the vast amount of visual information presented on food and drug labels. Researchers will trace eye movement to determine which design elements attract consumers’ attention and which ones they ignore.As consumers bombarded with dense packaging information daily, most of us would welcome labels that are easier (and quicker) to decipher. With so many food recalls and drug warnings – most of which are issued by the FDA itself – reading lengthy and confusing labels can be a task busy consumers simply don’t have time for. Hopefully the research will show, for example, which sections of a label take the most time to figure out. For example, a consumer might stare at one particular section for a longer period of time because the information is too convoluted to retract the necessary information and move on quickly.


Or, it might reveal which parts of a label are most important to consumers as their eyes move to that particular information first. Then, companies can place this information front-and-center so consumers can get what they need and get on with their lives.


FDA regulators stated that study results “will neither be used to develop population estimates nor be directly used to inform policy,” according to a press release. Instead, the study findings will help the agency to “identify and develop more effective labeling information and education in the future.”


Most busy consumers would probably deem that to be a worthy objective.