Study shows viewers have eyes for Obama

The magnetic appeal of Barack Obama has been reinforced in a new study which monitored the reaction of people watching the US inauguration.

Barack Obama takes oath of office

A University study which tracked the eye movements of viewers watching highlights of the ceremony found that they could not take their eyes off the President for almost all of the programme.

Viewing habits

Psychologists found that, despite potential distractions such as the presence of Obama’s Presidential rival John McCain, and the President’s family, viewers’ eyes were locked on President Obama’s face.

They only glanced away from the President twice, once when they briefly shifted their attention from the President to Chief Justice Roberts, as the Judge made a mistake while leading Obama in the Oath of Office.

Researchers say that this shows that no matter how strong the interest in a subject viewers’ often will still home in on human error.

Family reactions

And despite being the most powerful man on the planet, the President’s role as a husband and father also struck a chord with viewers.

After the swearing-in ended, most viewers looked immediately to the President’s wife Michelle and then to each of the couple’s children to gauge their reactions.

Pioneering research

Psychologists at the University have been pioneering research into tracking eye movements using video to better understand how people respond to images on screen.

They say the research is increasingly important in the digital age where more and more information is conveyed on screen.

People’s eyes movements are a tell tale sign of where their attention lies. We thought Obama’s inauguration would be an ideal chance to observe this process.With the growing use of media like YouTube and Video Conferencing, it’s important to investigate how the human brain operates under these viewing conditions to help better understand the impact of new technologies on how we see and understand the world."

Professor John HendersonSchool of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences