The Champions League Final Through the Eyes of Soccer Fans

Just in time for the 2014 Championsleague Final between Real and Atlético Madrid and shortly after  the encounter of last year’s protagonists Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund in the German cup final, the University of Tübingen and the Leibniz Knowledge Media Research Center announce unique insights into the mind of soccer fans revealed by a large scale eye tracking study.

The researchers used 21 contact free eye tracking systems by SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) to follow the gaze behaviour of Dortmund and Munich fans viewing a live stream of the 2013 final. The goal: Explain differences among fan groups in recalling scenes of a soccer game found by previous research.

The results provide valuable insights into the reception of sports entertainment: The fan bias does not result from group specific viewing behavior. It develops in later information processing steps and involvement. This process seems to be triggered by more certainty in judging critical scenes of the favourite team. Watch video:

The group around Jun.-Prof. Dr. Markus Huff from University of Tübingen in close cooperation with the group of Prof. Dr. Stephan Schwan at the Leibniz Knowledge Media Research Center designed the eye tracking study to investigate whether the fan bias influences visual processing finally leading to the biased recall of fans. The results: Though each person views certain scenes differently, statistically extracted gaze patterns of fan groups did not differ. It seems that basic visual properties like the angle of the camera (close up /wide angle) and not higher cognitive processes mainly determine where the eyes focus on. Experimental data revealed that fans were more certain in judging critical actions of their favorite team than of the opponent.

This difference in judgment certainty seems to trigger memory effects and to lead to the bias in recall found by previous research.
Results of the study will be presented at the ICA Conference in Seattle, WA, USA in May and at the DGPs Conference in Bochum, Germany in September.

To realize this large scale live study researchers had to overcome several challenges. They needed one central control server to monitor all eye trackers in real-time. Fans were invited to review selected scenes and fill in questionnaires directly after the first half, after the end of the game as well as one week after the game. And, all data of the different eye tracking computers needed to be brought together with a common time stamp to analyze overall gaze pattern of fan groups.

Markus Huff, University of Tübingen: “We are glad that SMI helped us to realize this unique study. The eye tracking data provided valuable insights as it allowed us to break down dynamic processes over time. The stronger the camera guided the gaze, the more coherent eye movements of fan groups were. Therefore, the structure of an event, the characteristics of visual material, and not deliberate cognitive decisions, strongly influence our perception of emotional media events.”

Eberhard Schmidt, SensoMotoric Instruments: “New small and portable eye tracking systems like SMI’s RED-m used for this study do not interrupt the natural viewing experience and moreover facilitate large scale eye tracking studies. We expect to see many more application of similar multiple system and parallel data collection settings for example in digital classrooms or large market research studies.“
Contact SMI:  Stefanie Gehrke, Marcom Manager, stefanie.gehrke(@), Phone: +49 (0) 172 3808 537
Contact University of Tübingen: Markus Huff, Junior Professor markus.huff(@), Phone: +49 7071 29-75612
Learn more about SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) at

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