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  Walking Straight into Circles

Souman, J., Frissen, I., Sreenivasa, M., & Ernst, M. (2009). Walking Straight into Circles. Current Biology, 19(18), 1538-1542. doi:10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.053.

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Item Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-C2FF-C Version Permalink: http://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0002-BE3B-7
Genre: Journal Article

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Souman, JL1, 2, Author              
Frissen, I1, 2, Author              
Sreenivasa, MN1, 2, Author              
Ernst, MO1, 2, Author              
Affiliations:
1Research Group Multisensory Perception and Action, Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society, ou_1497806              
2Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics, Max Planck Society, Spemannstrasse 38, 72076 Tübingen, DE, ou_1497794              

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 Abstract: Common belief has it that people who get lost in unfamiliar terrain often end up walking in circles. Although uncorroborated by empirical data, this belief has widely permeated popular culture. Here, we tested the ability of humans to walk on a straight course through unfamiliar terrain in two different environments: a large forest area and the Sahara desert. Walking trajectories of several hours were captured via global positioning system, showing that participants repeatedly walked in circles when they could not see the sun. Conversely, when the sun was visible, participants sometimes veered from a straight course but did not walk in circles. We tested various explanations for this walking behavior by assessing the ability of people to maintain a fixed course while blindfolded. Under these conditions, participants walked in often surprisingly small circles (diameter lt; 20 m), though rarely in a systematic direction. These results rule out a general explanation in terms of biomechanical asym metries or other general biases [1], [2], [3], [4], [5] and [6]. Instead, they suggest that veering from a straight course is the result of accumulating noise in the sensorimotor system, which, without an external directional reference to recalibrate the subjective straight ahead, may cause people to walk in circles.

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 Dates: 2009-09
 Publication Status: Published in print
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 Rev. Method: -
 Identifiers: DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2009.07.053
BibTex Citekey: 5773
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Title: Current Biology
  Other : Curr. Biol.
Source Genre: Journal
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Publ. Info: London, UK : Cell Press
Pages: - Volume / Issue: 19 (18) Sequence Number: - Start / End Page: 1538 - 1542 Identifier: ISSN: 0960-9822
CoNE: https://pure.mpg.de/cone/journals/resource/954925579107