Unseen Screens: Eye Tracking, Magic and Misdirection

Tessa Dwyer, Jenny Robinson

Research output: Contribution to journalCreative WorkOtherpeer-review


For this essay, we collected eye tracking data from twenty-one participants who viewed a short one-minute scene from the first Now You See Me (2013). From this data, we produced heat-mapped footage collating the gaze patterns of all participants and displaying as hottest those areas that were most fixated upon. We also produced inverse footage of this same data. Instead of overlaying the image with heat maps that obscure points of high interest, areas of the screen that were fixated upon remain visible while all else is blackened. Additionally, we produced aggregate gaze plot footage indicating the individuated order and length of each participant’s fixations, differentiated by colour.

Via these varied outputs, this data makes tangible thresholds of seeing and not-seeing. Through eye tracking technology, we pinpoint moments of misdirection, attentional splitting, and lag, connecting these findings to film editing processes described by Arthur P. Shimamura et al. (2014) as “a sort of magician’s sleight-of-hand.” Magicians have long understood the limitations inherent within visual processing, using shortfalls to manipulate and misdirect even the most attentive of audiences. In this video essay, we consider how misdirection, sleight-of-hand, and attentional blindness play out in relation to mediated experiences and screen interfaces.
Original languageEnglish
Journal[in]Transition: Journal of Videographic Film and Moving Image Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 13 Oct 2017


  • Eye Tracking
  • Visual Attention
  • Screen Studies
  • Cinema
  • Magic
  • Misdirection
  • Now You See Me

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