Authors
Haghani, Milad ; Sarvi, Majid ; Shahhoseini, Zahra ; Boltes, Maik

How humans resolve non-trivial tradeoffs in their navigational choices between the social interactions (e.g., the presence and movements of others) and the physical factors (e.g., spatial distances, route visibility) when escaping from threats in crowded confined spaces? The answer to this question has major implications for the planning of evacuations and the safety of mass gatherings as well as the design of built environments. Due to the challenges of collecting behavioral data from naturally-occurring evacuation settings, laboratory-based virtual-evacuation experiments have been practiced in a number of studies. This class of experiments faces the traditional question of contextual bias and generalizability: How reliably can we infer humans behavior from decisions made in hypothetical settings? Here, we address these questions by making a novel link between two different forms of empirical observations. We conduct hypothetical emergency exit-choice experiments framed as simple pictures, and then mimic those hypothetical scenarios in more realistic fashions through staging mock evacuation trials with actual crowds. Econometric choice models are estimated based on the observations made in both experimental contexts. The models are contrasted with each other from a number of perspectives including their predictions as well as the sign, magnitude, statistical significance, person-to-person variations (reflecting individuals perception/preference differences) and the scale (reflecting context-dependent decision randomness) of their inferred parameters. Results reveal a surprising degree of resemblance between the models derived from the two contexts. Most strikingly, they produce fairly similar prediction probabilities whose differences average less than 10%. There is also unexpected consensus between the inferences derived from both experimental sources on many aspects of people behavior notably in terms of the perception of social interactions. Results show that we could have elicited peoples escape strategies with fair precision without observing them in action (i.e., simply by using only hypothetical-choice data as an inexpensive, practical and non-invasive experimental technique in this context). As a broader application, this offers promising evidence as to the potential applicability of the hypothetical-decision experiments to other decision contexts (at least for non-financial decisions) when field or real-world data is prohibitively unavailable. As a practical application, the behavioral insights inferred from our observations (reflected in the estimated parameters) can improve how accurately we predict the movement patterns of human crowds in emergency scenarios arisen in complex spaces. Fully-generic-in-parameters, our proposed models can even be directly introduced to a broad range of crowd simulation software to replicate navigation decision making of evacuees. [ABSTRACT FROM AUTHOR]/nCopyright of PLoS ONE is the property of Public Library of Science and its content may not be copied or emailed to multiple sites or posted to a listserv without the copyright holder's express written permission. However, users may print, download, or email articles for individual use. This abstract may be abridged. No warranty is given about the accuracy of the copy. Users should refer to the original published version of the material for the full abstract. (Copyright applies to all Abstracts.)

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Summary

Econometric models known as discrete-choice models to infer from individuals' choices their evaluation, perception and prioritization of different attributes that contribute to their navigational decisions.

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Hypothetical-choice experiments and mock evacuation trials

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We conduct hypothetical emergency exit-choice experiments framed as simplepictures, and then mimic those hypothetical scenarios in more realistic fashions through staging mock evacuation trials with actual crowdsParticipants were invited to a survey in which they were introduced to 14 hypothetical exit-choice scenarios.And Participants were instructed to wait at the initial position of the evacuation room (See S2 Fig) and upon the start of each run, they were asked to enter the model building compete with others to escape from the room as quickly as possible assuming that they were running

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Participants were sampled from exiting pedestrians (169 individuals)

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The study primarily intended to investigate the external validity of the results obtained from the hypothetical decision-making experiments in the context of emergency wayfinding

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The validity of the models needs to be further scrutinized in larger venues than what was used for the experimentations.The role of the time pressure and urgency level that might cause high levels of fear and stress in extreme emergency scenarios had to be downplayed in this work

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People make tradeoffs between minimizing spatial distances, choosing less congested areas and choosing visible exits, and are also influenced by observing the decisions of others. However, they evaluate the decisions of others differently depending on the presence or absence of ambiguity in the escape environment.

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Experimental procedure was approved by the Monash University Human Research Ethics Committee

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Hypothetical scenarios were referred (i.e. decisions were hypothesized to be made in an imaginary emergency exit occurring at the same building which the participant had just left (in a normal situation)In the field, similar scenarios were then replicated in a more realistic fashion by conducting a number of mock (i.e. simulated) evacuation trials in an artificially-built model of (the floor level of) the same building depicted in the abovementioned pictures.