University of Essex researchers developed a computer game that simulates a zombie invasion to gather data on crowd behavior and the impact of stress on decision-making.
The researchers asked participants to find the best route out of a virtual, crowded building filled with zombies, with some subjects working at their own pace and others instructed to escape as quickly as possible. The extra pressure of a time constraint led to poorer decisions and reduced the likelihood of participants discovering innovative, effective escape methods.
The research could have a significant impact on crowd-management applications, says lead researcher Nikolai Bode. "Information relating to how individuals respond [in crowds] can inform our understanding of how a crowd is likely to behave," Bode says. "In a stressful evacuation situation, for example, our results suggest that a larger proportion of the crowd will retrace their footsteps than we might previously have expected."
Players did not tend to follow the crowd in the game, which surprised the researchers. Bode questions whether participants respond to virtual agents in a similar manner as live people.
The team plans to conduct further research, including a study of how people respond to different directional information.
From Science Omega
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