Human responses to multiple sources of directional information in virtual crowd evacuations

Nikolai Bode, Armel Ulrich Kemloh Wagoum, Edward Codling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

88 Citations (Scopus)
237 Downloads (Pure)


The evacuation of crowds from buildings or vehicles is one example that highlights the importance of understanding how individual-level interactions and decision-making combine and lead to the overall behaviour of crowds. In particular, to make evacuations safer, we need to understand how individuals make movement decisions in crowds. Here, we present an evacuation experiment with over 500 participants testing individual behaviour in an interactive virtual environment. Participants had to choose between different exit routes under the influence of three different types of directional information: static information (signs), dynamic information (movement of simulated crowd) and memorized information, as well as the combined effect of these different sources of directional information. In contrast to signs, crowd movement and memorized information did not have a significant effect on human exit route choice in isolation. However, when we combined the latter two treatments with additional directly conflicting sources of directional information, for example signs, they showed a clear effect by reducing the number of participants that followed the opposing directional information. This suggests that the signals participants observe more closely in isolation do not simply overrule alternative sources of directional information. Age and gender did not consistently explain differences in behaviour in our experiments.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20130904
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the Royal Society Interface
Issue number91
Early online date20 Nov 2013
Publication statusPublished - 6 Feb 2014


  • decision-making
  • crowd behaviour
  • emergency evacuations
  • virtual environment
  • route choice
  • directional information


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