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Crowds in front of bottlenecks at entrances from the perspective of physics and social psychology

In an interdisciplinary study, physical and social psychological effects on crowd dynamics were investigated based on a bottleneck experiment with focus on the dynamics in front of the bottleneck.

The experiment simulates a concert entrance consisting of an entrance gate and a corridor formed by barriers. The parameters examined are the corridor width, degree of motivation and priming of the social norm of queuing. We show that the density depends on motivation and increases continuously with corridor width. The narrowest corridor is rated as being fairer, more comfortable and showing less unfair behaviour. Pushing behaviour is seen as ambivalent.

Three bottleneck experiments with varying crowdsizes

When a large crowd of people is confronted with a spatial bottleneck, e.g. at the entrance to a concert, dangerous situations can occur, especially in an unfortunate combination of internal and external factors. Experience and preceding research has shown that barrier systems help to control such situations. However, there are still open questions that we aim to address.

The article presents results of experiments in which a corridor of barriers was build up in front of a bottleneck being a typical entrance gate. We systematically varied the width of the corridor, the degree of motivation and the priming of the participants.
The idea was to find out to what extent the available space, especially the width between the barriers, has an influence on the behaviour and on the perception of the participants. When do they show a waiting behaviour like in a queue, when do they start pushing and when do they observe unfair behaviour?
Based on the head trajectories that were extracted from overhead video recordings, we analysed physical measures, such as, density, waiting times and flow through the bottleneck.
Additionally, a social psychological questionnaire study was conducted. Therefore, all participants had to fill out a questionnaire directly after the experiments with questions regarding their perception and evaluation of the entrance situation, e.g. in terms of fairness and comfort.
We found that the width of the corridor in front of the entrance, or in other words, the available space, influences the investigated measures and ratings. For more details about the results of the interdisciplinary work, please refer to the publication in the journal Interface of the Royal Society London.

sketch of the experimental setupSketch of the experimental setup; w is the corridor width, the red dot is the target at the entrance of the gate and the blue square indicates the measurement area.

time series of the mean densityTime series of the mean density within the measurement area (blue square in figure 1) for high motivation (a) and low motivation (b). The runs displayed are 110/120 (w = 1.2 m), 230/240 (w = 2.3 m), 270/280 (w = 3.4 m), 050/060 (w = 4.5 m) and 030/040 (w = 5.6 m).

Individual waiting time versus target distance plotsIndividual waiting time versus target distance. The coordinates of the dots indicate the complete runtime and the initial distance to the target (see figure 1 for target location). The colour of the dots indicates the initial velocity within the first 4 s after the starting signal.

ratings of fairness for width and primingRatings of fairness for width and priming (error bars: 95% CI).

ratings of comfort for width and priming in a plot.Ratings of comfort for width and priming (error bars: 95% CI).

Article Journal Article
Crowds in front of bottlenecks at entrances from the perspective of physics and social psychology
Interface 17(165), 20190871 - () [10.1098/rsif.2019.0871] OpenAccess  Download fulltext Files  Download fulltextFulltext by OpenAccess repository BibTeX | EndNote: XML, Text | RIS

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Article: Crowds in front of bottlenecks at entrances from the perspective of physics and social psychology

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