Are you a fast and impulsive decision maker, or do you have more patience and are able to wait for rewards? This could be related to the speed that your eyes move! A new study published in The Journal of Neuroscience have discovered that people who are less patient have faster eye movements. Each eye movement is called a Saccade, a fast, simultaneous movement of both eyes in the same direction. They are in fact the fastest movement in the human body, occurring in milliseconds.
The research team measured the saccades using a camera that recorded the eyes moving from one dot to another on a computer screen. They found that the speed of eye movement differs significantly from person to person, but will remain consistent for each individual. Also there were differences between age groups, teenagers have the fastest eye movements, and they gradually get slower as you get older. In conjunction with this, the researchers also tested a person’s patience. Again the participants were asked to stare at the computer generated dots, this time the team lengthened the time between each dot moved position. This time they measured how long they looked at the dot, before losing patience and looking away. On comparison of the saccades and patience, the researchers found that the speed of the eye movements closely correlated to their level of patience. People who had faster eye movements were less willing to wait.
“Our hypothesis is that there may be a fundamental link between the way the nervous system evaluates time and reward in controlling movements and in making decisions. After all, the decision to move is motivated by the desire to improve one’s situation, which is a strong motivating factor in more complex decision making too”
Researchers believe that the findings could help to diagnose medical conditions such as schizophrenia, depression and substance abuse. Impulsivity can be used to diagnose and treat these and other conditions, and it is usually tested through the use of questionnaires. Measuring eye movements instead, could provide a more direct, and truthful assessment, and hopefully make diagnoses faster, more accurate and allow for more effective treatment.