You want people to walk the right way toward an exit. New research, though, shows that anxious people will steer toward the left.
“Behavioural approach and inhibition are two fundamental motivational systems manifested in affective, cognitive, and behavioural traits,” the researchers wrote in the study. “The aim of the present research was to examine the individual and joint associations of these systems with lateral spatial bias. Blindfolded participants traversed a room aiming for a straight line. Locomotion data obtained from motion tracking revealed systematic lateral biases in participants’ walking trajectories.”
Previous studies showed that threatening conditions trigger high activity in the brain’s right hemisphere, which causes people to head left.
“This anxiety/arousal function is consistent with a right-sided orienting network for attention, which responds to novel and unexpected events and acts as a ‘circuit breaker’ for focal processing,” the researchers wrote.
This current research showed for the first time that there are two different motivation systems across the brain’s two hemispheres—the approach motivation system resides in the left hemisphere, and the anxious and inhibition systems reside in the right.
The research should be considered when it comes to crowd management and egress strategies. How do your plans change knowing anxious guests subconsciously move toward the left when threatened? Please let us know in the comments.
(Image: Kate Crabtree/Creative Commons)