Publication Details

Sreenivasa, M., Mombaur, K. & Laumond, J. (2015). Walking Paths to and from a Goal Differ: On the Role of Bearing Angle in the Formation of Human Locomotion Paths. PLoS One, 10 (4), e0121714-1-e0121714-16.


The path that humans take while walking to a goal is the result of a cognitive process modulated by the perception of the environment and physiological constraints. The path shape and timing implicitly embeds aspects of the architecture behind this process. Here, locomotion paths were investigated during a simple task of walking to and from a goal, by looking at the evolution of the position of the human on a horizontal (x,y) plane. We found that the path while walking to a goal was not the same as that while returning from it. Forward-return paths were systematically separated by 0.5-1.9m, or about 5% of the goal distance. We show that this path separation occurs as a consequence of anticipating the desired body orientation at the goal while keeping the target in view. The magnitude of this separation was strongly influenced by the bearing angle (difference between body orientation and angle to goal) and the final orientation imposed at the goal. This phenomenon highlights the impact of a trade-off between a directional perceptual apparatus-eyes in the head on the shoulders-and and physiological limitations, in the formation of human locomotion paths. Our results give an insight into the influence of environmental and perceptual variables on human locomotion and provide a basis for further mathematical study of these mechanisms.



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