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      Experimental study of the behavioural mechanisms underlying self-organization in human crowds

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          Abstract

          In animal societies as well as in human crowds, many observed collective behaviours result from self-organized processes based on local interactions among individuals. However, models of crowd dynamics are still lacking a systematic individual-level experimental verification, and the local mechanisms underlying the formation of collective patterns are not yet known in detail. We have conducted a set of well-controlled experiments with pedestrians performing simple avoidance tasks in order to determine the laws ruling their behaviour during interactions. The analysis of the large trajectory dataset was used to compute a behavioural map that describes the average change of the direction and speed of a pedestrian for various interaction distances and angles. The experimental results reveal features of the decision process when pedestrians choose the side on which they evade, and show a side preference that is amplified by mutual interactions. The predictions of a binary interaction model based on the above findings were then compared to bidirectional flows of people recorded in a crowded street. Simulations generate two asymmetric lanes with opposite directions of motion, in quantitative agreement with our empirical observations. The knowledge of pedestrian behavioural laws is an important step ahead in the understanding of the underlying dynamics of crowd behaviour and allows for reliable predictions of collective pedestrian movements under natural conditions.

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          Most cited references 26

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          The origin of bursts and heavy tails in human dynamics

          The dynamics of many social, technological and economic phenomena are driven by individual human actions, turning the quantitative understanding of human behavior into a central question of modern science. Current models of human dynamics, used from risk assessment to communications, assume that human actions are randomly distributed in time and thus well approximated by Poisson processes. In contrast, there is increasing evidence that the timing of many human activities, ranging from communication to entertainment and work patterns, follow non-Poisson statistics, characterized by bursts of rapidly occurring events separated by long periods of inactivity. Here we show that the bursty nature of human behavior is a consequence of a decision based queuing process: when individuals execute tasks based on some perceived priority, the timing of the tasks will be heavy tailed, most tasks being rapidly executed, while a few experience very long waiting times. In contrast, priority blind execution is well approximated by uniform interevent statistics. These findings have important implications from resource management to service allocation in both communications and retail.
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            Social Force Model for Pedestrian Dynamics

            It is suggested that the motion of pedestrians can be described as if they would be subject to `social forces'. These `forces' are not directly exerted by the pedestrians' personal environment, but they are a measure for the internal motivations of the individuals to perform certain actions (movements). The corresponding force concept is discussed in more detail and can be also applied to the description of other behaviors. In the presented model of pedestrian behavior several force terms are essential: First, a term describing the acceleration towards the desired velocity of motion. Second, terms reflecting that a pedestrian keeps a certain distance to other pedestrians and borders. Third, a term modeling attractive effects. The resulting equations of motion are nonlinearly coupled Langevin equations. Computer simulations of crowds of interacting pedestrians show that the social force model is capable of describing the self-organization of several observed collective effects of pedestrian behavior very realistically.
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              The principles of collective animal behaviour.

              In recent years, the concept of self-organization has been used to understand collective behaviour of animals. The central tenet of self-organization is that simple repeated interactions between individuals can produce complex adaptive patterns at the level of the group. Inspiration comes from patterns seen in physical systems, such as spiralling chemical waves, which arise without complexity at the level of the individual units of which the system is composed. The suggestion is that biological structures such as termite mounds, ant trail networks and even human crowds can be explained in terms of repeated interactions between the animals and their environment, without invoking individual complexity. Here, I review cases in which the self-organization approach has been successful in explaining collective behaviour of animal groups and societies. Ant pheromone trail networks, aggregation of cockroaches, the applause of opera audiences and the migration of fish schools have all been accurately described in terms of individuals following simple sets of rules. Unlike the simple units composing physical systems, however, animals are themselves complex entities, and other examples of collective behaviour, such as honey bee foraging with its myriad of dance signals and behavioural cues, cannot be fully understood in terms of simple individuals alone. I argue that the key to understanding collective behaviour lies in identifying the principles of the behavioural algorithms followed by individual animals and of how information flows between the animals. These principles, such as positive feedback, response thresholds and individual integrity, are repeatedly observed in very different animal societies. The future of collective behaviour research lies in classifying these principles, establishing the properties they produce at a group level and asking why they have evolved in so many different and distinct natural systems. Ultimately, this research could inform not only our understanding of animal societies, but also the principles by which we organize our own society.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                21 August 2009
                Article
                10.1098/rspb.2009.0405
                0908.3131

                http://arxiv.org/licenses/nonexclusive-distrib/1.0/

                Custom metadata
                M. Moussaid et al. (2009) Proceedings of the Royal Society B 276, 2755-2762
                physics.soc-ph physics.bio-ph

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