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

Mehdi Moussaïd, Dirk Helbing, Simon Garnier, Anders Johansson, Maud Combe, Guy Theraulaz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

279 Scopus citations

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 with 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2755-2762
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume276
Issue number1668
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 7 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

Keywords

  • Controlled experiments
  • Crowds
  • Pedestrian interactions
  • Self-organization
  • Social force model

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