Shifting the Lens to Impact Investing: An Eye-tracking Study of Investors' Attention Allocation

Melissa Bandsberg Thomsen & Prashamsa Singh

Student thesis: Master thesis


This exploratory study aims to shed light on which information in an impact fund, investors pay attention to. The current understanding of investors' preferences needs revision. A new investor preference for risk-return plus impact has emerged but has remained largely unexplored. Understanding preferences is essential to scale impact investing from the margins to the mainstream. Drawing on previous literature, this paper further aims to uncover if personal characteristics influence attention allocation.
A neuroscientific approach using eye-tracking is employed on a small sample of nonprofessional investors to observe and measure attention. The participants visually explore siximpact funds, with and without time constraints. Attention allocation during the time-constrained round is analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. The experiment is followed up with a survey.
The findings suggest that investors pay more attention to financial over non-financial information. Moreover, attention allocation and information processing are influenced by gender, broad attitudes, and personality traits. The self-reported measure validated by eye-tracking revealed an incongruency, which may suggest that traditional research methods might not provide sufficient insight into behavior.
The insights from our research will contribute to providers in designing, communicating, and advertising impact funds. It could also help investors increase awareness of their information processing strategies and its implications. The study provides a starting point for further investigation of investors' preferences when making an impact investment decision.

EducationsMSc in Accounting, Strategy and Control, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2020
Number of pages130
SupervisorsKai Hockerts