Domain-specific interpretation of eye tracking data: towards a refined use of the eye-mind hypothesis for the field of geometry

Maike Schindler, Achim J. Lilienthal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


Eye tracking is getting increasingly popular in mathematics education research. Studies predominantly rely on the so-called eye-mind hypothesis (EMH), which posits that what persons fixate on closely relates to what they process. Given that the EMH was developed in reading research, we see the risk that implicit assumptions are tacitly adopted in mathematics even though they may not apply in this domain. This article investigates to what extent the EMH applies in mathematics—geometry in particular—and aims to lift the discussion of what inferences can be validly made from eye-tracking data. We use a case study to investigate the need for a refinement of the use of the EMH. In a stimulated recall interview, a student described his original thoughts perusing a gaze-overlaid video recorded when he was working on a geometry problem. Our findings contribute to better a understanding of when and how the EMH applies in the subdomain of geometry. In particular, we identify patterns of eye movements that provide valuable information on students’ geometry problem solving: certain patterns where the eye fixates on what the student is processing and others where the EMH does not hold. Identifying such patterns may contribute to an interpretation theory for students’ eye movements in geometry—exemplifying a domain-specific theory that may reduce the inherent ambiguity and uncertainty that eye tracking data analysis has.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)123-139
Number of pages17
JournalEducational Studies in Mathematics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 15 May 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Eye movements
  • Eye tracking
  • Eye-mind hypothesis
  • Geometry


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