Season 4 - Episode 433
If you’ve ever enjoyed a message or advertisement, but were unable to fully express exactly why it was appealing, then you can see the value of JaeHwan Kwon’s research. Kwon, associate professor of marketing in Baylor’s Hankamer School of Business, utilizes eye-tracking technology to determine attention and physiological responses to messages. In this Baylor Connections, he examines the role of psychology and physiology in uncovering clues to what draws and keeps our attention.
Derek Smith:Hello, and welcome to Baylor Connections, a conversation series with the people shaping our future. Each week we go in depth with Baylor leaders, professors, and more, discussing important topics in higher education, research, and student life. I'm Derek Smith, and today we're talking marketing, psychology, and more. Our guest today is Dr. JaeHwan Kwon, Associate Professor of Marketing in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. His research sits at the intersection of human attention and technology. Dr. Kwon measures the physical and physiological reactions that individuals experience when they view an ad or see an image and more. Using eye-tracking technology, Dr. Kwon's research pinpoints what people notice and how they respond. His work has appeared in a variety of journals, including the Journal of Advertising, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and more, and it's of interest in a number of industries. Excited to learn more about what you do today, Dr. Kwon. It's great to have you on Baylor Connections. Thanks so much for joining us today.
JaeHwan Kwon:Thank you, Derek, thanks for having me here.
Derek Smith:Well, it's great to have you here. And I'm curious, when I first learned about your research, I kind of try to picture it and think about it a little bit, and when you tell people what you do, are there common responses that you get? Questions people have? You know, when you tell people what your area is, how do they normally respond?
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. So one of the most common misperception about the eye-tracking study, it is dealing only with the images like, in the ad, kind of stuff. So eye-tracking studies is not necessarily limited to the visual images, but also you can take a look at what sort of information, for example, written product descriptions, so how people will process those kind of information to make an evaluation about a product or brand.
Derek Smith:So if I'm reading a magazine article and I'm utilizing your technology, if I get fixated on a certain area, you can be measuring that.
JaeHwan Kwon:Mm-hmm (affirmative). Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, yeah, yeah.
Derek Smith:So it's not just what I see.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. It's more like, you know... It's the filter and capture the selectable processing. You are given a lot of written information. You are not likely to read all pieces of word in a page. You are skipping something, you are processing something. Eye tracking can track your fixation and then finally tells us which information has been processed and skipped.
Derek Smith:I want to ask you specifically, what questions are you driven to answer? I mean, there's a lot of ways you can go with this, but are there some in particular that rise to the top for you?
JaeHwan Kwon:So I'm a judgment and decision making researcher. And when you think about judgment and decision-making as a consumer, it's not a single process. It's more like a step-by-step process. First you have to collect information. So when I say collect information, people may think about the web page in Amazon. You know, every information you need is there. Why do you collect information? But if you think about it, you collect information not only from the web page but also from your brain. It's called internal data collection or information collection. So you start to receive a judgment and decision-making from the data collection, either internally or externally, and then you process those information, and finally make your evaluation about the product towards the brand. And then you make a purchasing decision whether to buy this product or not. So you can think of it like four different processes: collecting data, I mean, collecting information; and then information processing; and making evaluative judgment, simply speaking, evaluation; and then finally making your purchase decision. And my research, my stream of research is focused more on the evaluation part.
Derek Smith:You know, as we talk about making a purchase, we're consumers in a lot of ways. Does this have applications whether it's ideological or political?
JaeHwan Kwon:Oh yeah, yeah.
Derek Smith:Or anything that can impact us?
JaeHwan Kwon:Oh yeah, of course. So one of my research in the political ideology used the eye-tracking things in a political ad, print ad, with a picture of a candidate and some of the words from the candidate and which party this guy is from. And then we kind of tracked which information is processed first, kind of things too.
Derek Smith:Let's think of ourselves individually with your research for a moment, because we're going to delve into what we see, what we read that can impact us. How unaware are we of our own motivations as consumers? As we dive into this, how should we view ourselves the way you do as a researcher?
JaeHwan Kwon:Oh yeah. That's a good question. So, you know, like evaluate judgmental researchers for centuries, you know, people... The researchers call our brain... It's two different things. One, cognitive . Not a lot of people, you know, like to think about something. If you are given a lot of words in a page, you are likely to skip those kind of wording. And also different researchers, people... Different researchers call our brain like evaluation machine. So we keep evaluating things around us in the world. So these are kind of two different opposite concept because you know... How do you... I mean, can you guess how many advertisements are you likely to see every day?
Derek Smith:Oh boy, I have no idea. I would imagine it's a pretty big number.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. Yeah. On average, it's like 5,000.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. So you cannot really process. You cannot really take a look at all 5,000 advertisements every day, but your brain, no matter whether you notice it or not, your brain kind of picks up and then kind of make your evaluation for, probably, I would say all of the things you are seeing every day. So that's why researchers call our brain as evaluation machine. But at the same time, we don't really like to think. We don't really like to read every details. So calling . So my answer to your question is more like we select some pieces of information to process, okay? We don't want to bother with a lot of information, all of the information that's given to me, but your brain, either say subconsciously or unconsciously, process those kind of information. So when people say something like, "It feels like there's something wrong. It feels like something is going wrong. I don't know the reason. I don't know why I think in that way," your brain is kind of picking up some wrong pieces of information, wrong science kind of stuff. Why you are not noticing anything.
Derek Smith:If we tried to self-report on what we're noticing, are we pretty unreliable at being able to do that effectively?
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah, it should be pretty unreliable.
Derek Smith:We are visiting with Dr. JaeHwan Kwon, Associate Professor of Marketing at Baylor. And so let's go inside your lab, inside your classroom a little bit, as we talk about doing this. How do you measure these things? What kind of technologies do you have to find this?
JaeHwan Kwon:So basically there are a lot of different things, like a traditional way to see how consumers help people make their decisions and evaluations. We used to use the self-reporting data, which is basically a survey. We gave questions, direct questions, and the subject answers the questions. But nowadays, people use more like a high tech technology, including eye tracking, some other physiological devices that measures physiological data. So for example, for the eye tracking, it can pick up three different sources of data. One is like in a... so basically, it tracks your eye fixations, like 120 Hertz, which means that it picks up your eye fixation on the screen 120 times a second. So it basically tracks the area you're looking at so that we can see which part of the images, which pieces of information you're looking at for how long. And then the order of these fixations... You're given a lot of different pieces of information in a print ad, and we can track which one is processed first, and then which one comes after that. And then also we can pick up the pupil sizes, which relate to the emotions. So these three are our basic framework of the eye-tracking data.
Derek Smith:So obviously the time you spend reading something or the area that you look at makes a lot of sense, but tell me a little bit about the physiological side of things. You mentioned the pupils dilating. What are some clues, I guess, that our body, you know... Maybe our body kind of gives clues to what it is that we're thinking and seeing.
JaeHwan Kwon:So, yeah, that's really a good question. So physiological data... pupil size is one thing. Basically when you're surprised at something, when you really like something, your pupil kind of enlarges. The size of the pupil increases. And also something like a skin conductivity, you put some devices on your palm and when you see some images, any sort of information which is kind of astonishing, which surprises you, you kind of sweating. And then those devices can pick up how much you are sweating.
Derek Smith:So I purchased a vehicle this summer and looked at it online. So I might report that I was intrigued by the mileage and the price, but you could determine if I really just thought it looked cool or... Yeah.
JaeHwan Kwon:Oh yeah, yeah. And if were looking at some kind of commercials for the car, in which part, in exact second, which one surprised you, which one made you happy... what point of time in the commercial made you decide to buy this car or not.
Derek Smith:This is Baylor Connections. We are visiting with Dr. JaeHwan Kwon, Associate Professor of Marketing in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business. You described the eye tracking, the software, and you can connect to the palms. What is that piece of equipment called? And what does it entail? I guess I know not everyone has one of these.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. So there are a lot of different devices and different kinds. Some skin conductivity is just one device. And also there are some kind of softwares you can use, which is kind of in using the web cam on your monitor or your PC. If you have the software Facial Expression Tracker, and then using the web cam, the software tracks and analyzes at the same time while you are looking at something... analyzes your facial expressions and what kind of emotions you are feeling. And also eye tracking devices. There are two different types. You can use some kind of glasses. So if you are in a shopping environment, for example, if you went to the grocery shopping, if you put the glasses, it tracks your eye movement so that it can basically tells you where you're looking at, which brand, in which aisle, which shelves you're looking at, those kind of things. And also there are screen-based eye tracker. Basically when a subject comes to my lab, they are sitting on the eye-tracking devices, I mean the cubicle, and then they have to go through the calibrating process so that each individual have different calibration... I mean, different fixations. So the eye-tracking devices should calibrate with that specific individual. And then they are looking at some stimuli and we collect the data.
Derek Smith:And Dr. Kwon, you obviously have great technology, but it requires interpretation and someone who kind of understands what's going on. How do you sort and interpret those vast amounts of data? You said, what, 120 captures per second on the eye tracking.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah, yeah.
Derek Smith:And then you throw in skin connectivity and facial reactions... I guess if you tighten your jaw, or a smile, or what have you. How do you put all that together into a very cohesive narrative?
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah, that's a good question. So like you said, it's a huge amount of data. So eye track alone picks up like 120 rolls of the data in the Excel file per second. And then if this subject went through a 20-minute experiment, you can multiply it by 120 by 60 by 20 per person. And for one study, you have to collect the data and list several hundred of the subject, and you're going to multiply those numbers too.
Derek Smith:It's a lot of data you're dealing with.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah, it's a huge data, but basically what we are doing is that we try to come up with several numbers for each individual. We are analyzing the data at the individual level and try to come up with the average value for each person, and then finally analyze the aggregate level data. And also in terms of the connection between the eye-tracking data with other datas, people who go through the eye-tracking devices, and then they go through. And at the individual level, we can collect the data. This is for this guy and other data... So it was from other devices are for this guy too.
Derek Smith:Which of those projects has been maybe most fun for you, most interesting, or most revealing for you or others in your discipline?
JaeHwan Kwon:For myself.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. So one of the research I've done with eye-tracking study, which was published a couple of years ago... So actually in the social psychologists and philosophers, basically psych people, for centuries they were debating on one single matter. There are two different schools of psychologist. So one is that about a human evaluation process. One is saying that people form their evaluations... People... I mean, every time they encounter any object, they form their evaluations at the moment. And other schools are saying, "No. Once you evaluate something, you kind of store this evaluation in your memory, in your brain. And whenever you encounter the same object, you kind of pull out the stored evaluation from your brain." So these two kind of made sense, because if you think about the context effect, which your evaluation changes over time. And for the same object, your evaluation can change within a minute every day. For example, say you are driving a car right now, and on your next lane, Lamborghini just passes through you. And then at that moment, if I ask you, what do you think about Hyundai-Kia, then your evaluation for the Hyundai-Kia will be kind of negative, right? Even though you think it's kind of an okay, not a bad car. But by seeing the Lamborghini passing you, your evaluation changes. So this school of researchers, the argument perfectly makes sense. You form your evaluations right at the moment. And if you think about, like we said, like we discussed, the people are encountering 5,000 advertisement every day, this advertisement alone. Think about how many people you are meeting everyday. How many products and brands you are seeing everyday. We cannot really make all of the evaluations. So these two are kind of in a debating, kind of, but you know, really fiercely fighting: "I'm right, you're wrong." But one of my researcher's eye-tracking devices kind of solved these kind of problems. You know, there are two different types of evaluations. Once you evaluate something, you kind of label this evaluation as either strong evaluation or weak evaluation, and you categorize them. And if you put the label "strong evaluation," the evaluation itself is stored in your brain. So every time you encounter the same object, you just kind of pull your evaluations from your brain. If you labeled it as a "weak evaluation" in your brain, then you form your evaluations every time you encounter that. So, yeah, hopefully, after the research, people in the psych and the brain researchers don't fight anymore about this matter.
Derek Smith:That's always good. What are some factors that lead to different people having evaluations being strong or weak in different areas?
JaeHwan Kwon:So the evaluations formed in your brain unconsciously or subconsciously by, for example, like a mirror effect. It is automatically labeled as a weak evaluation. But if you thought about it really carefully, and if you are really involved in this evaluation, it is likely to be labeled as a strong evaluation. But it depends. It varies by context and who you are.
Derek Smith:Yeah. I bet context probably plays a big role-
JaeHwan Kwon:Oh, yeah.
Derek Smith:...in a lot of these, for sure, as we visit with Dr. JaeHwan Kwon. And Dr. Kwon, we're heading to the final few moments of the program. I think you painted that picture, but I'll ask you specifically. When you think about attitude formation, how much fun is it taking pieces of these data and applying the context that you know and looking for ways attitudes are formed about politics, about people, about ideas, and about products.
JaeHwan Kwon:Yeah. Mm-hmm (affirmative). So attitude is a really interesting topic. And the way God created us, it's like, you know... So thinking about the number of the stimuli, the number of things, number of people we encounter every day, if our brain is not designed in such a way that we can efficiently process all of the information, we cannot really live a life. And attitude plays a key role in this efficient living of our daily life. So if you keep... So attitudes, strong attitude, is like a strong evaluation and you store it in your brain. And those kinds of strong evaluation just pops out automatically when you encounter the object. So it gives you approach and avoidance tendencies. So for example, if you see something is approaching you and you have a bad attitude about this, you kind of approach that kind of situation right away. That's how man has been survived and in ruling the Earth out of a lot of different species. And in that sense, attitude is a really important one to live a life. And I believe that's what makes human being different with other animals in the plant.
Derek Smith:This is Dr. JaeHwan Kwon. And final question. What do you enjoy most about your discipline and your line of research?
JaeHwan Kwon:My line of research. It is related to my answer to the previous question. So I was really interested in how God designed our brains. So what makes human being different with other animals? We don't really have as strong muscles as other strong animals, tigers lions, right? And we don't really have really good eyes like in hawk, eagles. But we have become the dominant species in the Earth. And that all comes from our brain, how people think, how people evaluate, those kinds of things. And that special function that human has compared to other species made us survive in the Earth and become the dominant species in the Earth. And my research, I believe, my line of research is looking at how the human brain is designed, especially how we evaluate things, and getting to know how our brain is designed make me interesting.
Derek Smith:Some very deep questions and very deep ideas, and this is your window into that.
JaeHwan Kwon:More like a philosophical.
Derek Smith:That's fine. That's fascinating. That's great. Well, Dr. Kwon, have been really interesting, and I really appreciate you taking the time to join us and share about your research, give us some takeaways. Thank you so much for that.
JaeHwan Kwon:Thank you.
Derek Smith:Dr. JaeHwan Kwon, Associate Professor of Marketing in Baylor's Hankamer School of Business, our guest today here on Baylor Connections. I'm Derek Smith. Reminder, you can hear this and other programs online at baylor.edu/connections, and you can subscribe to the program on iTunes. Thanks for joining us here on Baylor Connections.