Individual and collective spatial representations in crowds and other social behaviors


This is a systematic and coordinated multidisciplinary effort using concepts from cognitive science, computational modeling, and mathematical analysis of collective behavior toward the study of the dynamics of human spatial behavior. The following primary goals are being pursued:

  1. understanding how individuals develop cognitive maps of complex environments in real-world situations that include rich spatial interactions with other people individually and in groups;
  2. studying the implications of cognitive maps at collective behavioral levels in high-density crowd circumstances and providing cognitive foundations for models of pedestrian dynamics and emergency evacuations;
  3. establishing a mathematical link between microscopic and macroscopic models of adaptive human social behavior in spatial tasks.

The research program will develop novel cognitive map-driven models that will include shared spatial knowledge derived from social interactions. The models will be used to improve simulations of individuals and crowds and provide a basis for mathematical analysis of collective spatial behavior dynamics. Model development and experimental validation will be iterative, informing each other. Validation and evaluation will be performed in multiple testbeds, including virtual reality, crowd simulations, and real museum environments. The museum scenario will be used as a unifying domain, chosen for direct relevance to key research challenges, richness of structure, and wide range of real-world behavior dynamics and applications.


We have a recent poster showing current project progress:

USC: Currently implementing method for calculating statistics for use of open space. Also, working on model for unwarping cameras in order to have better metrical information.

ISI: Exploring model behavior, in particular processing data from Tunnel Exhibit with unidirectional flow.

Brandeis: Constructing scenarios for experiments within improved VR museum. Video of current walk-through (8.4MB):


Maja Mataric' (Principal Investigator) Kristina Lerman (Principal Investigator) Robert Sekuler (Principal Investigator)
Dylan Shell Rumi Ghosh (InfoUSA student) Shivakumar Viswanathan (Post-Doc)
Salman Qadri
Danko Krajisnik(REU Student)

Ongoing work

We are currently building computer models of the California Science Center.

  1. Here are pictures & other info from a recent reconnaissance. (Oct 20th, 2005)
  2. Download the footage from the CSC.
    Two videos: Part One (188MB) and Part Two (233MB).


This work is supported by the US National Science Foundation under their Crosscutting Human and Social Dynamics (HSD) program. Also resources are provided for Undergraduate Mentoring through the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program.