Cultural blindness: Eye-tracking trial of visual attention towards assistive technology (AT) product, by students from the UK and Pakistan

Culture is an influential predictor of the way people use their sensory (visual) perception to derive information through visual stimuli. The discipline of psychology is culturally-bounded, providing the dominant views of western societies, in relation to other cultural perspectives. This western bias in research is often termed cultural blindness. According to Nisbett’s model of cognition, individuals from Asian (collectivist) and Western (individualist) societies have bias to employ holistic and analytic visual processing styles, respectively. The stigma or negativity associated with Assistive Technology (AT) products are instigated by the societal perception of the communicative (semantics/meaning) content of those devices. There has been little empirical evidence that shows how individuals from different cultures interact with a given visual of an AT product, whether they are motivated to attend specific component (graphemes) of the product; and, the sequence of the fixation within pre-defined Areas of Interests (AOI) of a visual stimulus. In this study eye-tracking in conjunction with Semantic Differential (SD) scale was used to explore the viewing behaviour of students (n=15) from the UK (individualist) and Pakistan (collectivist). Through data analysis using BeGaze™, the order of the fixations was checked. For the appraisal of identical product representation, the pattern of eye movement was noted to be different across cultural groups. The contradiction was discovered due to the amount of attention allocated to various AOI’s. The paper further draws on the concept of ‘cultural blindness’ to indicate the role of culture in relation to socially acceptable product design.