Eye and Brain Analyses Help Stave Off The Dangers of Self-Report


Have you ever given others the benefit of doubt? If you have, on what grounds? Their facial expression? Their gesture? Their tone?

Limitation of Self-Report

At least for researchers, they usually put their trust in statements and numbers, a self-report survey or questionnaire mostly. Self-report is a classic method of gathering data, but at the same time, it is one of many methodologies that is frequently questioned for its reliability. In fact, there is a quite solid argument for questioning the validity of self-report:

  • Participants are not always truthful

Imagine you are asked to fill out a questionnaire on your drug use, suicidal impulse or sexual tendency. Would you be 100% honest about it?

  • Participants may not necessarily have a high introspective ability

Most people find it difficult to assess their feelings and thinking accurately and thoroughly.

  • Interpretation of rating points varies

Though more insightful than a yes-or-no question, a scale of 0–100 to rate your state of mind, for example, challenges you to “chop” your mental states into exactly 100 pieces and hand in the best representation of yourself. Even worse, everyone “chops” it in different ways.

So what can you do about it then?

More Objective and Quantitative Measures: Physiological Responses

The most desirable solution is to scrutinize every “move” people make that is so subtle to be noticed by an observer as well as the observed. Tracking such subtle “moves”, perhaps seemingly difficult at first sight, is not impossible with the help of physiological measures. In fact, people can hardly control involuntary and spontaneous responses and manipulate their physiological activities at a particular moment. Therefore, compared to self-report method, physiological responses are more objective and quantitative.

There is a variety of physiological indicators that have been frequently employed in research: electromyography (EMG) — electrical activity produced by skeletal muscles; galvanic skin response (GSR) — changes in electrical properties of the skin; electrocardiogram (ECG) — electrical activity of the heart; etc. They can bring about observations and insights that would have been difficult to capture otherwise, making up for the deficiency in the validity of subjective measures.

Clearly seeing the potential in physiological measures, one study decided to opt for electroencephalography (EEG) and eye-tracking techniques to measure cognitive load and compare self-report and physiological methods.

Measuring Cognitive Load: A Comparison of Self-report and Physiological Methods

This study compared three methods — self-report, EEG, and eye tracking — to measure cognitive load in solving puzzles with four different levels of difficulty (intrinsic cognitive load). The participants were instructed to solve four different puzzles with increasing difficulty from Puzzle 1 to Puzzle 4 and be fitted with an eye tracking device and an EEG headset during the experiment. The experiment was sequenced in the following order:

  • The operation span task (working memory capacity — recalling the consonant in between mathematical problems — and spatial visualization — paper-folding test)
  • Participant data survey (demographics, vision issues, prior knowledge, etc.)
  • Practice Puzzles 1, 2, and 3
  • Cognitive Load and Puzzle Self-Efficacy Survey (a 9-point response scale for the difficulty level)
  • Problem-Solving Puzzles 1, 2, 3, and 4, presented in a random order for each participant with Cognitive Load and Puzzle Self-Efficacy Survey in between each puzzle problem.
  • The exit survey
Table 1. Self-report Ratings of Cognitive Load (left) vs. Confusion Matrix for EEG Spectral Features (right)

The study first explored the correlation between the self-report ratings of cognitive load and the difficulty of puzzle (intrinsic cognitive load). As indicated in Table 1, the participants self-reported higher cognitive load on average as the intrinsic cognitive load increased.

Figure 1. The process by which the difficulty level of the puzzles and the self-report difficulty ratings for each puzzle are predicted from physiological data.

How about EEG? Based on the literature in cognitive science indicating that alpha waves decrease and theta waves increase as a task becomes more difficult, the spectral analysis (Figure 1) of EEG was carried out to differentiate the level of tasks. In Table 1, it should be noted that the algorithm did not classify any of Puzzle 1 and 2 samples as Puzzle 4, which shows quite accurate classification for the first two puzzles. Also, EEG analysis predicted the difficulty level of Puzzle 3 with a high accuracy of 71%. However, the algorithm failed to distinguish the difficulty levels of Puzzle 3 and 4 samples for the observed Puzzle 4.

Let’s compare two results. The EEG data appeared to better distinguish between Puzzle 2 and 3 than did the average self-report cognitive load ratings: there is no significant difference in mean self-report cognitive load ratings between Puzzle 2 (5.19) and 3 (5.28) statistically. However, neither of the two successfully distinguished the difficulty levels of Puzzle 3 and 4. Overall, better distinguishing puzzles from one another, the EEG analyses were more accurate in evaluating the participants’ cognitive load than self-reported cognitive load ratings.

A little digression here. You may wonder why eye tracking techniques are not discussed in the result. The study initially hypothesized that, based on the literature, there is increased pupil dilation for a complex task compared to an easy task. However, the experimenters acknowledged in the end that subtle changes in pupil and eye movement data were difficult to detect due to the low sampling rate of the eye tracking device and that cognitive load imposed during a puzzle task fluctuated over its duration so capturing changes at every moment is somewhat unnecessary.

Big Opportunities At Stake

Although the study misses out on the opportunity to explore the potential of eye tracking technology, the study successfully demonstrated that physiological measures can possibly serve as an alternative or, if not, a supplement to self-report measures.

Yes. Self-report method has its shortcoming, but its importance should not be undermined. It is ideal for large sample sizes to observe a trend and is an unobtrusive way of acquiring responses without too much hassle. However, if a research topic demands more objective analysis that is unfathomable through self-report and is confined to a small sample size, then self-report loses its effectiveness. So, it depends on what kind of research it is.

Nonetheless, with respect to evaluating cognitive ability and mental states, physiological method is unparalleled. For instance, in education, teachers can use physiological measurements to assess and improve students’ learning ability. Companies can acquire clients’ authentic feedback and improve on its product and service. Doctors can treat post-traumatic stress disorder patients with comprehensive assessment of recovery. There exists a huge room for application.

On a lighter note, in our Medium, there is a recent post about research in a virtual environment (Virtual Reality: Elevate Your Research From Mediocrity to Greatness). It highlights the advantages of integrating virtual reality into a study. A high ecological validity of virtual reality can feed a lifelike experience that can evoke participants’ genuine reactions such as goosebumps owing to phobia. So, it’s needless to mention the powerful synergy that virtual reality creates with physiological methods. Just something to think about!

(End of Document)


*For further information, contact us at www.looxidlabs.com.

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Dare To Explore: VR Helps You Conquer Your Fears

Samsung VR Headsets Help Millennials Overcome Their Fears in Persuasive News Ads, Adweek (By Gabriel Beltrone)

What are you afraid of? We all like to think we’re unique, but when it comes to our fears, there are the most common fears people hold. According to the study published in the journal Psychological Medicine, birds, insects and other animals topped the list of common fears in an enormous survey of 43,093 US adults, followed by mountains, tall buildings, bridges and other heights. Some fears are just universal and innate as a response to potential threat of dangers such as a frightening experience of storms, thunder, and lightning. However, other extreme or irrational fears to objects or situations known as phobias trigger entirely different reactions including rapid heart beats, the sweats, trembling and chest pain. Since phobias have no evolutionary purpose to avoid dangers, the phobias are considered as a sort of mental illness, subtypes of anxiety disorder.

Two out of every 100 people have five fears or more. (Illustration: Mona Chalabi)

For phobias, facing a specific fear in a gradual and consistent manner is the most effective and common treatment, called exposure therapy. As Mark Zuckerberg bought Oculus Rift for $2 billion in March 2014, VR environments is on the verge of treating phobias by placing the patients in a virtual world where they experience specific fears including heights, elevators, thunderstorms, public speaking and flying with a promise of greater immersion and more realism. According to Chris Brewin, a professor of clinical psychology at University College London, the potential of VR to treat phobias and fears is huge. In VR exposure therapy, patients are placed in a computer-generated three-dimensional virtual world and guided through the selected environment. Unlike the real environment in the standard exposure therapy, the virtual environments allows the therapist ultimate control over each patient for the perfect simulation.

We have seen the future: Keanu Reeves in The Matrix Reloaded. (Photograph: Allstar/ Warner Bros/ Sportsphoto Ltd)

Samsung’s ‘Be Fearless’ Gear VR campaign is one of the most impressive use cases that helped people face their fears of heights and public speaking and overcome them. In the campaign, Samsung gave 27 people the chance to participate in a four-week training program delivered with Gear VR before offering the chance to face their fear in real life. The participants were taken through virtual scenarios from travelling upwards in an transparent elevator to heli-skiing. Before advancing to the different levels of difficulty, they had to pass a scientific evaluation such as heart rate, eye movement, and self assessment of anxiety levels. According to Samsung, this training helped 87.5% of the group afraid of heights reduce their anxiety level by 23.6%.


Although clinical use of VR is in its infancy, VR therapy has slowly but surely made its way to the US shores for years, specifically to treat veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Findings of a study published in Advances in Integrative Medicine reported that VR therapy significantly reduces in severity of PTSD symptoms and result in rapid extinction . The findings also suggested combining VR and EEG biofeedback as a potential treatment of stress-related disorders. It is because real-time neurophysiological data such as serum cortisol levels, heart rate variability and mid-frontal alpha EEG asymmetry may provide useful inputs for adjusting VR exposure therapy protocols to enhance stress resilience or accelerate treatment response.

Big Idea of 2015: Healing with Virtual Reality, PBS. org (by Allison Eck)

A little bit of fear is normal and sometimes useful, but phobias can interfere with an individual’s ability to lead a normal life. Is fear holding you back? Let VR and EEG biofeedback train you and overcome your phobias.


  1. Halloween scare: what are the most common phobias?

2. Our Most Common Fears

3. Can virtual reality cure phobias?

4. Samsung’s ‘Be Fearless’ Gear VR campaign combats fear of heights

5. Virtual Reality Therapy for PTSD in the military

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룩시드랩스가 HTC VIVE 와의 파트너십을 맺었습니다! HTC VIVE X 프로그램은…


룩시드랩스가 HTC VIVE 와의 파트너십을 맺었습니다!

HTC VIVE X 프로그램은 HTC사에서 VR 생태계 구축을 위해 1억 달러 규모의 투자를 통해 만든 VR 파트너십 프로그램입니다.

룩시드랩스는 VIVE X 프로그램을 통해 VR 전문가의 멘토링 기회, HTC 사의 VR 관련 기술 지원을 포함해 제품 출시와 관련된 다양한 지원을 제공받게 됩니다.

이제 세계 최고의 VR중 하나인 Vive에서 룩시드랩스의 기술이 제공되는 환경을 기대해주세요. 🙂

출처: VentureBeat (https://goo.gl/FPC8ZN)

한가지 더! 룩시드랩스에서 영문 페이지(Looxid Labs)를 공식 오픈했습니다. 국내 소식 외에도 다양한 글로벌 소식을 공유 예정이니 Like 버튼 눌러 주시고 많은 관심과 격려 부탁드리겠습니다!

Looxid Labs and HTC Vive have forged a partnership to bring innovation across VR industry!

HTC VIVE X is a partnership program with 1 billion dollar investment by HTC to construct a strong VR ecosystem.

Looxid Labs will receive support from HTC in numerous aspects regarding our product rollout, from mentoring programs to technical assistance by VR veterans.

Soon you will find out how Looxid Labs technology will be integrated with VIVE platform. 🙂

Stay tuned for more updates!

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