In the event that a sudden tragedy happens inside a room of six exits, the most logical course of action is for the crowd to divide themselves into the number of exits. That way, people can get out of the room safely. But in reality, that is not what happens. Instead, all of the people panic and try to go out in one exit, and the result is a stampede. This happens because we’ve developed a tendency to clump together when we find ourselves in a dangerous situation.
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There are many advantages to that… from defense (it’s easier for a group to fight off a threat) to safety in numbers (people can hide in a crowd). When humans moved to agrarian and urban lifestyles, our dangers changed—but our responses didn’t, says Randolph Nesse, a professor of psychiatry at Arizona State University who studies the evolutionary reasons behind anxiety. “We continue to be afraid of things that were dangerous to our ancestors,” Nesse says. When we panic, ancient instincts kick in.
Is there a way to somehow solve this problem of ours? Hopefully, there is, and it seems that the solution is found in the humble creatures that we see in our homes: the ants.
More details about this over at Nautilus.
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