A new study shows that humans are, in fact, creatures of habit. At any given point in our lives, we regularly return to a maximum of 25 places, researchers have found.
This is one of a kind study to investigate the mobility of people over time. The study first spotted the effect in students, but later it found that it applies to everyone. Even though we are all creatures of habit, those 25 places often change over time.
The study is published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour
The study titled 'Evidence for a conserved quantity in human mobility' was based on analyses of 40000 people's mobile traces collected from four different datasets.
The study authors Dr. Laura Alessandretti and Dr. Andrea Baronchelli, Piotr Sapiezynski, and Professor Sune Lehmann along with the research team from Sony Mobile Communications analyzed people's mobile traces. They emphasized the explorative nature of human behaviour visiting places that grow steadily over time.
Dr. Alessandretti says, "We first analyzed the traces of about 1000 university students. The dataset showed that the students returned to a limited number of places, even though the places changed over time. I expected to see a difference in the behaviour of students and a wide section of the population. But that was not the case. The result was the same when we scaled up the project to 40,000 people with different habits and gender from all over the world. It was not expected in advance. It came as a surprise."
Exploring new places
The interesting fact about the human behaviour is - people constantly explore new places. We move to a new home, find a new restaurant, explore a new bar, or hit a new gym. But the regularly visited places in any given point in time is constantly 25. If a new place is added to the list, one of the places from the old list disappears.
The pattern is the same when the researchers divide the locations into categories based o how often and how much time they spend at the location.
Dr. Baronchelli says, "People are constantly balancing their curiosity and laziness. We want to explore new places but also want to exploit old ones that we like. Think of a restaurant or a gym. In doing so we adopt and abandon places all the time. We found that this dynamic yields an unexpected result: We visit a constant, fixed number of places -- and it's not due to lack of time. We found evidence that this may be connected to other limits to our life, such as the number of active social interactions we can maintain in our life, but more research is in order to clarify this point."
Findings of anthropologist Robin Dunbar and the study has some connections. Dunbar has demonstrated that there is a limit to how many friends we have.
In this study, Dr. Baronchelli and his colleagues show that those who visit a lot of places are likely to have many friends. The relation between social behaviour and the number of locations has not been made clear before this research.
Dr. Baronchelli adds, "Our research established a first formal connection between the study of human mobility and human social cognition. Clarifying this link will help us design better public spaces as well as better transportation systems. And ultimately facilitate the creation of more sustainable and healthy urban environment for all of us."