Eye-tracking heatmaps


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Best. Post. Ever.


Given the recent redesign with sidebars, this was of interest:


The funny thing is further down they mention men focusing on the groin of a different photo, so I’m not sure why they’d deliberately mislabel this one.

In fairness, though, it does make some sense - and not in the way that is intuitively implied by the post.

It’s baseball. That lower area is where you’re expecting to see balls fly by (no pun intended), an area which male observers of the game are more likely to pick up on than female observers (for instance, when I go to a game with my wife, she’s there more for “people watching” than for an understanding or appreciation of the game itself).

I wonder if it has to do with men fixating on “who is the player” and “where was the pitch” and women focusing more on the player.

(note: I’m not trying to be sexist here and say that women can’t appreciate baseball, blahblahblah… just that – from my personal experience – most women I know who go to games go “for their significant other’s benefit” moreso than their own love of the game). There are plenty of women who are way more into baseball than I am, and I’ll be the first to acknowledge it.


A baseball (or softball) swing starts in the hips, and is non-committal - the player can still be judging the inbound pitch without committing to a full swing at a possibly non-strike pitch. If you know how to hit and are watching a batter, you do look at his/her hips to indicate the start of a swing, or at least if the pitch was even tempting. But yes, maybe fellas are just comparing junk. Any heat maps for lady softball hitters?

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To be fair, the editor is being a manchild (okay, impish) about it. In another picture, they point out that men tend to be looking at the groin.

I find it interesting that, with Scarlett Johansson, the bikini model, and the model who is only wearing shoes, almost everyone is looking at the same things (though it is funny that guys didn’t seem to notice that the naked model was wearing shoes.)

And that resume is terrible.

(No offense, Rob; I thought it was funny, too.)

I didn’t really notice, my six seconds is spent running various number computations based on their phone number to decide if they meet the magic number to hire them.

Do others do it differently?

I find most heat maps to have the colors in the wrong places. Yellow is brightest and should be the hottest. Then orange. then red. More like this.

it’s not a literal heat map, it’s a representation of data using the visible light spectrum, which works better because you have more then 3 times the range then you would with a duotone.

The more hues you use the more false zones you imply that are not in the data. Also values convey much more information than hues to the brain. If you scramble the hues in an image it is still extremely readable, but if you scramble the values you destroy all readability.

I made an example. I much prefer the bottom gradient map which puts yellow (not red) in the highest intensity position, but ymmv.

The reason it’s done the other way is to provide better banding between areas of intensity. In your bottom example, the gradients are natural and so are harder to read as data. In the middle, the red hot spots and dark blue cold spots are clearly “picked out” and separated from the surrounding colors. It’s easier to read.

Take a look a your bottom picture - because of contrast, the dark space on the left above the large bright area looks like a “true cold” area. Then, if you view it in the false spectrum you see it doesn’t measure that way. It’s only light blue, and just barely that.

"better banding???!? :open_mouth: That’s the last thing I want.

OTOH a “true cold area” in a heat map is a feature, not a bug.

Discussion on this very topic here:

I agree with Tufte. And these ideas are basic to experts at presenting information to the eye, like photographers, painters and I’ll bet fighter plane cockpit designers, too.

I’d be interested to see this for the new BB homepage…


Actually, that data is there - you just can’t see it if you view it in natural gradients. That banding isn’t false information. There aren’t hard lines between the colors. It’s just the contrast of different colors being assigned to heat registrations. The colors aren’t there to “identify a heat level” so much as to provide color contrast, which make the data in the mapping actually visible to the eye.

The red is used for “hot spots” because it shows up clearly against the yellow. The order is ROYGBIV, but that’s so each can have a clean color gradient blend.

The “true cold” area appears in your map as well - as deep purple - but it’s much harder to tell where it starts and stops. You can’t really tell that no part of the area above the largest heat source is registering at the coldest set.

The “true cold” area appears in your map as well - as deep purple - but it’s much harder to tell where it starts and stops. You can’t really tell that no part of the area above the largest heat source is registering at the coldest set.

I’m not equally interested in all areas of a heat map. That’s why they are called heat maps. They show you the hot spots. Where do people look the most? Where is the crime rate highest? Where is the signal the strongest? These are about prioritizing scalar values, and the eye doesn’t prioritize in ROYGBIV wavelength order. We see the middle values more than either the R or the B end values, and with more weight given to the R end than the B end.

For a person fighting a fire - a cold spot is just as important as a hot spot.

The point isn’t what we see more as an independent value naturally - but creating contrast between the values.

It’s much more difficult for the eye to read separation in a two color gradient than it is for it to see separation between multiple colors. Also, yellow separates red and green which allows red-green color blind people to read a heat map designed this way. I was already well aware that not everyone sees the same way, and that’s exactly why this type of color layout is used.

We aren’t going to agree, so I’m walking away rather than waste my time, but you may want to read up on why this form of layout is used.

However, your disagreement has led me to putting ‘Highway Star’ on Youtube, so there’s that.


You have my love!

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Radar Love :wink:

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