Using Eye-Tracking Technology to Quantify the Effect of Experience and Education on Forensic Anthropological Analyses

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Micayla C. Spiros
Sherry Nakhaeizadeh
Tim J.U. Thompson
Ruth M. Morgan
Viktor Olsson
Alexandra Berivoe
Joseph T. Hefner
Martin Arvidsson


The human interpretation of analytical outputs is a significant challenge in forensic science, making it vital to explore the application of protocols as we enhance our practices. This study assesses decision making in forensic anthropological analyses utilizing eye-tracking technology to quantify an observer’s estimate of confidence and reliability. Ten individuals with varying levels of education and experience were asked to score cranial morphologies for two human crania. Each participant’s fixation points, fixation duration, and visit count and duration were assessed using Tobii™ Pro 2 eye-tracking glasses. Mid-facial morphologies capturing relative widths were the quickest scored traits, with an overall median time of 14.59 seconds; more complex morphological assessments took longer. Using time as a proxy for confidence, Kruskal-Wallis rank sum results indicate individuals with less experience differed significantly from individuals with greater experience (p = 0.01) although differences in level of education were not significant. Interestingly, intraclass correlation coefficients (ICC) indicate interobserver reliability is high between observers, suggesting experience only slightly improves agreement. These preliminary results suggest experience is more important than level of education. Through empirical decision making studies, forensic anthropologists can improve practices—increasing the transparency of evaluative decision making by targeting confusing or problematic aspects of a data collection practice, and in so doing, enhance training.

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