When you cross the street at rush hour, you slip past the oncoming crowd, your eyes scanning the face in front of you. This search can look like something you’re doing alone. But crowd movement scientists have discovered that a simple trip through a crowd is like a dance that we perform with those around us.
And so it might not be too surprising to learn that a person staring at a phone, lost in the private world while walking, actually messes with vibes, according to a study published on Thursday. From the journal Science Advances.
Humans use a variety of visual cues to predict where other members of the crowd are next, said Hisashi Murakami, a professor at the Kyoto Institute of Technology and the author of the new paper. He was curious what would happen if the attention to those details were interrupted, and so, in a series of outdoor experiments on the Tokyo University campus, he and his colleagues filmed scene of two groups of students on a walkway about 30 feet long.
Groups move towards each other at normal speed. When groups met, the students visually performed an action familiar to crowd learners: They formed lanes. When one person in front of a group finds their way through the oncoming group, the others are behind him, creating some ribbons of pedestrians crossing over. This is easy and almost instantaneous.
The researchers then asked three of the students to perform a task on their phones while they walked – a simple one-digit addition, not too taxing but enough to keep their eyesight. they are facing down instead of forward.
When those students are placed behind their groups, distraction does not affect how the groups move through each other. But when the pedestrians were distracted in front of the group, the walking speed of the group slowed considerably. It also takes longer to form clear lanes.
The distracted person cannot move smoothly either. They take big steps aside or avoid others in a way researchers rarely see without distraction. Inattentive pedestrians in the experiment also caused the same behavior in others; people who don’t look at their phones move in a more messy fashion than without a phone cabinet. It seems that a few people who don’t focus all of their on navigation can change the behavior of a crowd of more than 50 people.
Researchers have suggested that looking at a person’s phone may have such effects because it takes away information that is in our eyes. Where we watch as we move broadcasts detailed information about where we plan to go next. Without that, it would be difficult for passers-by to avoid us gracefully. And only avoiding others when we move with our eyes looking the other way, instead of moving on purpose, makes us even more unpredictable.
As more and more people use smartphones and other devices that contribute to distracting walking, the researchers said, architects and city planners are concerned about the mobility. The crowd transfer must take into account that change behavior.
Dr. Murakami’s next plan is to track everyone’s eye movements as they pass by. He hopes that these studies will reveal our views that help us navigate the crowd – the messages we convey about the next steps we take as we perform this daily ritual, all of which. all do not know.