Document Type


Publication Date




Publication Title

Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board






Crowds are a part of everyday public life, from stadiums and arenas to school hallways. Occasionally, pushing within the crowd spontaneously escalates to crushing behavior, resulting in injuries and even death. The rarity and unpredictability of these incidents provides few options to collect data for research on the prediction and prevention of hazardous emergent behaviors in crowds. This study takes a close look at the way states of agitation, such as panic, can spread through crowds. Group composition—mainly family groups composed of members with differing mobility levels—plays an important role in the spread of agitation through the crowd, ultimately affecting the exit density and evacuation clearance time of a simulated venue. This study used an agent-based model of pedestrian movement during the egress of a hypothetical room and adopted an emotional, cognitive, and social framework to explore the transference and dissipation of agitation through a crowd. The preliminary results reveal that average group size in a crowd is a primary contributor to the exit density and evacuation clearance time. The study provides the groundwork on which to build more elaborate models that incorporate sociobehavioral aspects to simulate human movement during panic situations and account for the potential for dangerous behavior to emerge in crowds.

Original Publication Citation

Elzie, T., Frydenlund, E., Collins, A. J., & Robinson, R. M. (2016). Panic that spreads sociobehavioral contagion in pedestrian evacuations. Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 2586, 1-8. doi:10.3141/2586-01


0000-0002-7694-7845 (Frydenlund)