Collective movements of pedestrians: How we can learn from simple experiments with non-human (ant) crowds
AuthorShahhoseini, Z; Sarvi, M
Source TitlePLoS One
PublisherPUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsShahhoseini, Z. & Sarvi, M. (2017). Collective movements of pedestrians: How we can learn from simple experiments with non-human (ant) crowds. PLOS ONE, 12 (8), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0182913.
Access StatusOpen Access
ARC Grant codeARC/LP120200361
INTRODUCTION: Understanding collective behavior of moving organisms and how interactions between individuals govern their collective motion has triggered a growing number of studies. Similarities have been observed between the scale-free behavioral aspects of various systems (i.e. groups of fish, ants, and mammals). Investigation of such connections between the collective motion of non-human organisms and that of humans however, has been relatively scarce. The problem demands for particular attention in the context of emergency escape motion for which innovative experimentation with panicking ants has been recently employed as a relatively inexpensive and non-invasive approach. However, little empirical evidence has been provided as to the relevance and reliability of this approach as a model of human behaviour. METHODS: This study explores pioneer experiments of emergency escape to tackle this question and to connect two forms of experimental observations that investigate the collective movement at macroscopic level. A large number of experiments with human and panicking ants are conducted representing the escape behavior of these systems in crowded spaces. The experiments share similar architectural structures in which two streams of crowd flow merge with one another. Measures such as discharge flow rates and the probability distribution of passage headways are extracted and compared between the two systems. FINDINGS: Our findings displayed an unexpected degree of similarity between the collective patterns emerged from both observation types, particularly based on aggregate measures. Experiments with ants and humans commonly indicated how significantly the efficiency of motion and the rate of discharge depend on the architectural design of the movement environment. PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS: Our findings contribute to the accumulation of evidence needed to identify the boarders of applicability of experimentation with crowds of non-human entities as models of human collective motion as well as the level of measurements (i.e. macroscopic or microscopic) and the type of contexts at which reliable inferences can be drawn. This particularly has implications in the context of experimenting evacuation behaviour for which recruiting human subjects may face ethical restrictions. The findings, at minimum, offer promise as to the potential benefit of piloting such experiments with non-human crowds, thereby forming better-informed hypotheses.
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