Behind the Glasses

Amid the student flows and plant lectures at Apopka’s UF/IFAS Mid-Florida Research and Education Center, one researcher is about to embark on an ambitious consumer preferences study with the hope of pinpointing how design elements and product labels work to drive purchases.

Hayk Khachatryan, ph.D., an assistant professor in the Food and Resource Economics Department whose research includes a focus on consumer behavior, is the brain behind the two-year research study, which will soon commence, thanks to a grant from the National Horticulture Foundation.

The central tool in the study is eye-movement-tracking glasses, which include a mini-camera which tracks the elements on which participants focus when looking at mock plant displays and promo tags, and for how long, according to Khachatryan.

The hope? To gain more insight on just what drives consumers to purchase.

“Because of today’s consumer-driven world, understanding how much they’re willing to pay for specific attributes helps producers align their production methods and pay attention to the details or attributes valued by the consumers most,” Khachatryan explained during a tour of his research lab.

 As part of the study, consumers will first be asked to which elements they pay attention when looking at products and labels and deciding whether to make a purchase. Participants will then be given the glasses to wear and led through mock displays of product displays and product tags, according to Khachatryan, to see if there are correlations or discrepancies between what they say they like, and on what they actually focus on during the visual exercise.

“So, if [prior to the eye-tracking exercise], they say they prefer a certain attribute, then we can follow and see if they paid attention to it,” Khachatryan said. “I can, of course, check them with their visual behavior.”

For more information, check back with the National Horticulture Foundation’s website,