Mouse-tracking: A practical guide to implementation and analysis


The motivation behind process tracing is to go beyond the mere observation of a choice as the behavioral outcome and more directly observe the psychological process by collecting additional variables. A central unobserved quantity in choice tasks is the degree to which each alternative received consideration during the choice process, and how commitment to and conflict between options developed over time. Mouse-tracking is based on the assumption that motor movements in a given time interval contain a signal of the cognitive processes during that period (Spivey & Dale, 2006). Specifically, it is assumed that the direction of movement towards or away from alternatives reflects their relative attraction at a given time point during the decision process.To gain access to this information, mouse-tracking records hand movements indirectly by sampling the cursor pos- ition of a computer mouse with a high frequency while participants decide between (and move towards) options presented at different locations on the computer screen. Mouse-tracking is an increasingly popular process tracing technique that has been applied to a wide range of questions throughout many fields of psychology (see Chapters 9–10; see also Freeman, Dale, & Farmer, 2011, Freeman, 2018, Stillman, Shen, & Ferguson, 2018).

A Handbook of Process Tracing Methods. New York: Routledge.