Detecting concealed familiarity using eye movements: the role of task demands

Tal Nahari, Oryah Lancry-Dayan, Gershon Ben-Shakhar, Yoni Pertzov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: What can theories regarding memory-related gaze preference contribute to the field of deception detection? While abundant research has examined the ability to detect concealed information through physiological responses, only recently has the scientific community started to explore how eye tracking can be utilized for that purpose. However, previous attempts to detect deception through eye movements have led to relatively low detection ability in comparison to physiological measures. In the current study, we demonstrate that the modulation of gaze behavior by familiarity, changes considerably when participants perform a visual detection task in comparison to a short-term memory task (that was used in a previous study). Thus, we highlight the importance of theory-based selection of task demands for improving the ability to detect concealed information using eye-movement measures. Results: During visual exploration of four faces (some familiar and some unfamiliar) gaze was allocated preferably on familiar faces, manifested by more fixations. However, this preference tendency vanished once participants were instructed to convey countermeasures and conceal their familiarity by deploying gaze equally to all faces. This gaze behavior during the visual detection task differed significantly from the one observed during a short-term memory task used in a previous study in which a preference towards unfamiliar faces was evident even when countermeasures were applied. Conclusions: Different tasks elicit different patterns of gaze behavior towards familiar and unfamiliar faces. Moreover, the ability to voluntarily control gaze behavior is tightly related to task demands. Adequate ability to control gaze was observed in the current visual detection task when memorizing the faces was not required for a successful accomplishment of the task. Thus, applied settings would benefit from a short-term memory task which is much more robust to countermeasure efforts. Beyond shedding light on theories of gaze preference, these findings provide a backbone for future research in the field of deception detection via eye movements.

Original languageEnglish
Article number10
JournalCognitive Research: Principles and Implications
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2019
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019, The Author(s).


  • Concealed information test
  • Countermeasures
  • Deception
  • Eye movements
  • Information detection
  • Memory
  • Task demands


Dive into the research topics of 'Detecting concealed familiarity using eye movements: the role of task demands'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this