Simulations Help Predict How People Panic

Sadly there are still incidents of death that are a result of people panicking while evacuating spaces. For decades engineers have looked into ways to make buildings easy to evacuate and have made a lot of headway, unfortunately there are still times when their efforts are for not. Today the work into dealing with evacuating panicky people is being done by more than engineers; psychologist are using computer simulations to investigate new approaches to better building designs.

“One crucial aspect of crowd dynamics lies in the social interactions that take place between individuals,” say the authors. “These interactions create feedback loops and amplification effects and give rise to self-organized macroscopic patterns.”

The simulation was also run without the stressors and this led to some interesting differences. For instance, “In the absence of stress, participants tended to keep reasonably safe distances from their neighbors in order to avoid the collision penalty,” says the report. This means that there were almost zero body contacts. In the regular escape, the participants were prepared to sacrifice points in order to jostle their way to a faster exit.

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