Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers

, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 16–26

Pupillary dilation as a measure of attention: a quantitative system analysis

Methods & Designs

DOI: 10.3758/BF03204445

Cite this article as:
Hoeks, B. & Levelt, W.J.M. Behavior Research Methods, Instruments, & Computers (1993) 25: 16. doi:10.3758/BF03204445


It has long been known that the pupil dilates as a consequence of attentional effort. But the function that relates attentional input to pupillary output has never been the subject of quantitative analysis. We present a system analysis of the pupillary response to attentional input. Attentional input is modeled as a string ofattentional pulses. We show that the system is linear; the effects of input pulses on the pupillary response are additive. The impulse response has essentially a gamma distribution with two free parameters. These parameters are estimated; they are fairly constant over tasks and subjects. The paper presents a method of estimating the string of attentional input pulses, given some average pupillary output. The method involves the technique of deconvolution; it can be implemented with a public-domain software package, Pupil.

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Copyright information

© Psychonomic Society, Inc. 1993

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Max Planck Institute for PsycholinguisticsNijmegenThe Netherlands