Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Computer Science


Matt Huenerfauth


Adaptive User Interfaces; Eye Movements; Eye Tracking; Human-Computer Interaction


While evaluating user task performance with eye tracking has been examined within the field of Human-Computer Interaction (HCI), previous research has generally utilized eye tracking to understand how users perform a task. This dissertation defines a new paradigm by which eye-tracking research can be used in HCI: to predict whether users will be successful at a task, using a pattern classification model trained on their eye-tracking data.

This dissertation describes the experimental framework and it demonstrates (through laboratory experiments and machine-learning modeling) the feasibility and limits of predicting user outcomes based solely on eye movement patterns. Utilizing an online learning scenario as a proof-of-concept application of this technique, several rounds of eye-tracking data collection studies were conducted in which participants viewed multiple windows of simultaneous information content: a video of an instructor, lecture slides, a transcript of the speech, etc. After viewing the lesson while being recorded with an eye tracker, students responded to a test in which their understanding of the information content was measured. A variety of machine-learning approaches and feature selection techniques were used to explore the relationship between the eye movements of students and their success on the final test, and classification models that outperformed a majority-label baseline were successfully trained.

To test the limits of this approach, additional studies were conducted with modified user-interfaces that relaxed some of the homogeneity of information content and visual presentation that were rigorously maintained in the initial experiment. In addition, a follow-up study was conducted in which the strict temporal segmentation of the experimental session was randomized, to measure the robustness of the modeling approach to such perturbations of the data-collection and analysis methodology.

The results of this study can assist HCI eye-tracking researchers in developing new techniques for evaluating systems, e.g., by predicting users' task performance based on eye-tracking data. Further, this dissertation lays the conceptual and methodological groundwork for the design of intelligent systems for predicting which users may be struggling with a task, based upon an automatic classification of users into groups of high- or low-performers based upon an examination of their eye movements alone.



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