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Max Kinateder, Brittany Comunale, William Warren; Effects of familiarity and neighbor behavior on visually-guided exit choice in an emergency . Journal of Vision 2016;16(12):1369. doi: 10.1167/16.12.1369.
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© 2017 Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology.
The familiarity hypothesis postulates that building occupants are drawn towards familiar places during emergencies (Sime, 1980). 'Movement to the familiar' has been reported during various evacuation incidents, but thus far, has not been studied experimentally. The present experiment investigates how movement to a familiar exit interacts with visual information about a neighbor's egress behavior. Participants walked in a virtual environment while wearing a wireless head-mounted display. On each trial, the participant entered a square room (6.55 m on a side) through a door (the familiar door). The room contained artwork (statue, 2 photographs) as well as two identical doors with emergency exit signs, located either on the same, opposite, or perpendicular walls. Participants were instructed to explore the artwork; when they stood in front of the statue, facing both doors, a fire alarm was triggered. There were nine trials in each of four conditions: (a) In the control condition, the participant was alone in the room. (b) In the passive condition, a virtual human (neighbor) stood near the statue, but ignored the fire alarm. (c) In the familiar condition, the neighbor walked to the familiar door and exited after the fire alarm was triggered. (d) In the unfamiliar condition, the neighbor exited the unfamiliar door. With 15 out of 20 participants tested, the results indicate that participants are significantly more likely to exit by the familiar door than the unfamiliar door (p < .01), consistent with the familiarity hypothesis. Movement to the familiar was significantly more likely when the neighbor left by the familiar door (p < .01), and less likely in the unfamiliar condition (p < .05). The results suggest that movement to the familiar interacts with the social influence of neighbors, and can be reproduced and studied in virtual reality.
Meeting abstract presented at VSS 2016
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