Mutual anticipation can contribute to self-organization in human crowds

Hisashi Murakami, Claudio Feliciani, Yuta Nishiyama and Katsuhiro Nishinari

Science Advances 17 Mar 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 12, eabe7758
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe7758

Human crowds provide paradigmatic examples of collective behavior emerging through self-organization. Understanding their dynamics is crucial to help manage mass events and daily pedestrian transportation. Although recent findings emphasized that pedestrians’ interactions are fundamentally anticipatory in nature, whether and how individual anticipation functionally benefits the group is not well understood. Here, we show the link between individual anticipation and emergent pattern formation through our experiments of lane formation, where unidirectional lanes are spontaneously formed in bidirectional pedestrian flows. Manipulating the anticipatory abilities of some of the pedestrians by distracting them visually delayed the collective pattern formation. Moreover, both the distracted pedestrians and the nondistracted ones had difficulties avoiding collisions while navigating. These results imply that avoidance maneuvers are normally a cooperative process and that mutual anticipation between pedestrians facilitates efficient pattern formation. Our findings may influence various fields, including traffic management, decision-making research, and swarm dynamics.

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