Abstract—When people make choices within a group, they are frequently influenced by the choices made by others. We have experimentally explored the general phenomenon of group behavior where an early action facilitates subsequent actions. Our concrete instantiation of this problem is group path formation where people travel between destinations with the travel cost for moving onto a location inversely related to the frequency with which others have visited the location. We compare the resulting paths to optimal solutions [minimal Steiner trees (MSTs)] and the “Active Walker ” model of pedestrian motion from biophysics. There were systematic deviations from beeline pathways in the direction of MST. These deviations showed asymmetries (people took different paths from A to B than they did from B to A) and varied as a function of the topology of the destinations, the duration of travel, and the absolute scale of the world. The Active Walker model accounted for many of these results, in addition to correctly predicting the approximate spatial distribution of steps. Index Terms—Conformity, culture, group behavior, group choice, minimal Steiner trees (MSTs), path dependence, route formation, stigmergy, trail systems
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