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Zombies offer key to understanding how crowds evacuate

Posted July 9, 2013


Zombies might not be the most obvious candidates to use when researching how crowds evacuate buildings, but they have proved a key factor in a new study into crowd behaviour.

As part of on-going research into understanding human crowd behaviour, scientists from the University of Essex collected data using a computer game run at the Science Museum’s ZombieLab event.

The AXA-funded research on crowd evacuations, published in the journal Animal Behaviour, revealed how stress can affect decision making and crowd behaviour during evacuations.

Lead researcher Dr Nikolai Bode, from the Department of Mathematical Sciences at the University of Essex, explained: “Imagine you are exiting a building in a large crowd. There are different exit routes of similar length you could take. Do you take a route you know already? Do you follow or avoid others? Investigating these decisions is important to understand how crowds evacuate from buildings.”

Dr Bode and colleague Dr Edward Codling designed a zombie-themed computer game where players had to escape from a building in the presence of simulated evacuating pedestrians. Players had to complete the game either under non-stressful conditions, or stressful conditions where they were told that they had to beat the fastest evacuation time.

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