George McConkie

Portrait of George McConkie

Have you ever stopped and thought about how your eyes and brain work together to allow you to see things? Your eyes take in light and convert it to signals, which are then sent to the brain and interpreted into the objects, people, and places that we see in our everyday lives. Some scientists and psychologists spend their entire careers researching the process of eyesight in the hopes of furthering our understanding of the human body and mind, including George W. McConkie.

Since 1979, George W. McConkie has worked as a Professor of Psychology in the department of educational psychology. Dr. McConkie received his Ph.D. in experimental psychology from Stanford in 1966. From 1966-1978, Dr. McConkie worked in the department of Psychology and Education at Cornell University. Dr. McConkie has spent his career studying how the human eyes and brain work together, particularly when individuals are reading, and has published multiple papers and books on the subject.

McConkie was one of the first researchers to develop a method of eye-tracking studies using computers and an eye-tracking machine in 1971. While at Cornell, McConkie became interested in reading research and realized that many studies were only looking at comprehension and not at the process of reading. His initial experiment looked at how large an area of eye-fixation there is for reading. He and his graduate assistant, Keith Rayner, worked to develop a program to help test this.

Only when they presented their research for the first time did they find out there were 3 other people trying to find ways to conduct experiments using eye-tracking (but for different purposes). McConkie was very excited about the possibilities eye-tracking would open up for research related to reading and how the mind works.

He devoted much of his career to using eye-tracking for different studies and learning what it could be used for and what limitations this method had. When he became a part of the Beckman Institute, his work would influence others to engage in eye-tracking methods for studying.

Among his recent studies, Dr. McConkie uses eye tracking software to measure and record volunteers’ eye movement while reading and viewing photos. Through this research Dr. McConkie hopes to further understand how the human brain interprets things that it sees and then apply that knowledge to educational practices in the future.

Dr. McConkie’s work has influenced and inspired other colleagues as well. Another innovation that uses eye tracking is the Auditory Perceptual Simulation.

– Beckman Institute. This is where Dr. McConkie has conducted his research.


McConkie, G. W. (1977). Learning from Text. Review of Research in Education, 5(1),

McConkie, G.W. (1997). Eye movement Contingent Display Control: Personal Reflections and Comments. Scientific Studies of Reading, 4(1), 303-316.

McConkie, G.W. (2010). George W. McConkie.

McConkie, G., and  Zola, D. (Mar. 1984).  Eye Movement Control During Reading: The Effect of Word Units. Center for the Study of Reading. Retrieved from

Rayner, K., McConkie, G.W., Zola, D. (1980). Integrating information across eye movements. Cognitive Psychology, 12(2), 206-226.

Rayner, K., Loschky, L.C., Reingold, E. M. (2014). Eye movements in visual cognition: the contributions of George W. McConkie. Visual Cognition, 22(3-4), 239-241, 

Contributors: Luke Anthenat