One algorithm to rule them all? An evaluation and discussion of ten eye movement event-detection algorithms

Richard Andersson, Linnéa Larsson, Kenneth Holmqvist, Martin Stridh, Marcus Nyström

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Almost all eye-movement researchers use algorithms to parse raw data and detect distinct types of eye movement events, such as fixations, saccades, and pursuit, and then base their results on these. Surprisingly, these algorithms are rarely evaluated. We evaluated the classifications of ten eye-movement event detection algorithms, on data from an SMI HiSpeed 1250 system, and compared them to manual ratings of two human experts. The evaluation focused on fixations, saccades, and post-saccadic oscillations. The evaluation used both event duration parameters, and sample-by-sample comparisons to rank the algorithms. The resulting event durations varied substantially as a function of what algorithm was used. This evaluation differed from previous evaluations by considering a relatively large set of algorithms, multiple events, and data from both static and dynamic stimuli. The main conclusion is that current detectors of only fixations and saccades work reasonably well for static stimuli, but barely better than chance for dynamic stimuli. Differing results across evaluation methods make it difficult to select one winner for fixation detection. For saccade detection, however, the algorithm by Larsson, Nyström and Stridh (IEEE Transaction on Biomedical Engineering, 60(9):2484–2493,2013) outperforms all algorithms in data from both static and dynamic stimuli. The data also show how improperly selected algorithms applied to dynamic data misestimate fixation and saccade properties.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)616-637
JournalBehavior Research Methods
Issue number2
Early online date2016 May 18
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Psychology (excluding Applied Psychology)
  • Signal Processing
  • Other Medical Engineering


  • Eye-tracking
  • Inter-rater reliability
  • Parsing


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