Have you ever watched a baby or small child play and thought to yourself — I wish I knew what he (or she) is thinking?

We usually have to wait until our children are old enough to tell us what they are thinking, and do they ever love to tell us!

Before infants and young children can talk, eye tracking can give us details about what is going on in their developing minds. Researchers at The Child and Baby Lab at Uppsala University glean insight on developmental processes, perception, cognition, language acquisition, and social interaction by studying the eye movements of these tiny subjects.

Studying infants’ eye movement patterns is just one way researchers can learn about psychology through eye tracking software. How humans make decisions can seem mysterious, even to the decision maker himself, but recent eye tracking research suggests distinct patterns and differences in our decision-making processes.

Are you a decisive or indecisive person? Researchers in Wesleyan University’s psychology department have used eye tracking to study how decisive and indecisive people differ in their processing of information. They asked 54 Wesleyan students to participate in a hypothetical course selection activity and tracked their eye movements as the students decided which courses to take.

Another difference lay in the way participants spent their time during the decision-making process. Decisive people focused on fewer attributes, while indecisive people spent more time overall looking at the blank cells in the information grid they were presented with. In other words, these participants spent considerable time staring at nothing, which researchers believe allowed the participants to ruminate their choices before coming to a decision.

If you knew what type of decision-maker you are, do you think it would help you overcome any obstacles in your decision-making path? The Wesleyan researchers believe eye tracking studies, like the one discussed above, could help create strategies to assist those of us who just can’t seem to decide.

Wesleyan isn’t the only educational institution making use of eye tracking for psychological research. The University of Massachusetts, Hamilton College, and Clemson University, among other schools, all use eye tracking studies within their psychology departments. From schizophrenia to autism to visual information studies, a quick search of the National Institutes of Health medical library database reveals wide use of eye tracking for psychological research on the professional level as well. Apparently, when it comes to discovering what goes on in the human brain, the eyes have it.

As for the younger subjects of eye gaze research mentioned above, studying the movements of little eyes can show how humans develop social cognition skills from the moment they become social beings, as well as how we develop motor and perceptual skills from the moment we begin to interact with the world. Understanding a broader spectrum of the human development lifecycle can create opportunities to enhance learning and to correct atypical development early on.