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Max Kinateder, William Warren; Neighbor influence on evacuation behavior in virtual and real environments. Journal of Vision 2015;15(12):409. doi: 10.1167/15.12.409.
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© ARVO (1962-2015); The Authors (2016-present)
Virtual reality (VR) enables the study of visually-guided behavior in situations that are otherwise not amenable to laboratory research. An example is a fire evacuation scenario, in which building occupants have to find their way to safety through smoke and flames, identify safe egress routes, and avoid threats. First, however, it must be determined whether evacuation behavior in VR is comparable to that in a real environment. We are thus initially studying participant responses to a fire alarm in matched virtual and real environments. The present experiment investigates how the decision to evacuate is influenced by visual cues about a neighbor’s behavior. In the Control group, a lone participant is exposed to a fire alarm while performing a bogus task. In the Passive group, a participant performs the same task with a confederate who ignores the fire alarm. In the Active group, the confederate immediately leaves the room when the fire alarm sounds. The gender of the participant is crossed with the gender of the confederate. 75 participants experience the scenario in a real environment (25 per group), and 75 others in a matched virtual environment presented in a wireless head mounted display (HMD), with avatars of the confederates. In the real environment, two-thirds of participants in the Control group evacuated the room. In the Active group, nearly all did so, whereas in the Passive group all but one did. More female than male participants evacuated in the Control group, but there were no other gender effects. Data collection in the virtual environment is in progress, and will be completed by spring. The findings thus far demonstrate a very strong influence of neighbor behavior on a participant’s evacuation decision. The results will provide answers to the much-debated question of whether evacuation behavior is similar in virtual and real environments.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2015
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