Evidence for a Conserved Quantity in Human Mobility

Alessandretti, L., Sapiezynski, P., Lehmann, S. & Baronchelli, A. (2016). Evidence for a Conserved Quantity in Human Mobility. .,

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Faced with effectively unlimited choices of how to spend their time, humans are constantly balancing a trade-off between exploitation of familiar places and exploration of new locations. Previous analyses have shown that at the daily and weekly timescales individuals are well characterized by an activity space of repeatedly visited locations. How this activity space evolves in time, however, remains unexplored. Here we analyse high-resolution spatio-temporal traces from 850 individuals participating in a 24-month experiment. We find that, although activity spaces undergo considerable changes, the number of familiar locations an individual visits at any point in time is a conserved quantity. We show that this number is similar for different individuals, revealing a substantial homogeneity of the observed population. We point out that the observed fixed size of the activity space cannot be explained in terms of time constraints, and is therefore a distinctive property of human behavior.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GA Mathematical geography. Cartography
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: School of Engineering & Mathematical Sciences > Department of Mathematical Science
URI: http://openaccess.city.ac.uk/id/eprint/17656

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