Human walking behavior: the effect of density on walking speed and direction

Frohnwieser, Anna, Oberzaucher, Elisabeth, Grammer, Karl and Hopf, Richard (2012) Human walking behavior: the effect of density on walking speed and direction. In: XXI Biennial Conference on Human Ethology (ISHE), 13 - 17 August 2012, Vienna, Austria.

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Item Type:Conference or Workshop contribution (Presentation)
Item Status:Live Archive


Humans have a natural desire to keep a certain physical distance from other humans, called personal space (Hall, 1966). If personal space is invaded without consent physical reactions such as increased heart rate, sweating and increased blood pressure are triggered (Middlemist and Knowles, 1976). Personal space is well described for standing and seated test subjects (e.g. Hayduk, 1981; Evans and Wener, 2007), but not for walking people. Gérin-Lajoie and his colleagues (2008) described minimum distances that pedestrians keep from obstacles, which were used as a basis for this study.
Using a newly developed system called CCB Analyser the walking patterns of pedestrians in an Austrian shopping center were recorded. Data included frequency of people, average speed, speed changes, direction changes, and two different measures for personal space, one being personal space in circles around stationary recording frames and the other being personal space for pedestrians that plan their paths ahead. We tested the hypothesis that high density and low interpersonal distance leads to a change of walking behavior – increased walking speed induced by stress (Konečni et al., 1975) and more changes in speed and direction to circumvent obstacles.
People walk faster when personal space is invaded. Walking speed and direction are changed to a higher degree at high densities. These results offer a first insight into the relationship of human walking behavior and personal space. A better understanding of the relation between those factors might be crucial for modeling flow of pedestrians, as well as panic situations.

Keywords:personal space, walking behavior, pedestrian
Subjects:C Biological Sciences > C100 Biology
Divisions:College of Science > School of Life Sciences
Relation typeTarget identifier
ID Code:17296
Deposited On:26 Apr 2015 19:04

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