It only takes one bad Apple – staring at your phone is bad for society

New research shows that just a handful of pedestrians tapping away on their phones can disrupt the flow of a whole crowd of people, writes Rupert Hawksley

Monday 05 April 2021 00:01
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<p>Humans organise themselves in ‘lane formation’ – unless people start using their phones</p>

Humans organise themselves in ‘lane formation’ – unless people start using their phones

If you’re reading this on your phone, while walking down the street – stop! Put the phone away. It’s OK, I won’t take it personally. It’s for your own good, although if you’ve already stopped reading, I guess you’ll never find out why. Perhaps the other readers, the sensible ones, who are still in bed or enjoying a cup of coffee, can pass the message on later. It’s an important message, too. But seriously, stop reading now.

New research published in Science Advances shows that just a handful of pedestrians tapping away on their phones – ie, not looking where they’re bloody well going – can disrupt the flow of a whole crowd of people. 

Scientists from the University of Tokyo and Nagaoka University of Technology arranged for two groups of 27 people to walk towards each other down a closed-off street. No phones; no collisions. This shows, the researchers explain, that humans adhere to “a rich variety of self-organising behaviours, as do other animals, in phenomena such as birds flocking and fish schooling”.

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