An analysis of the movement of some 40,000 people suggests most of us frequent only 25 places—and as we sub in new favorites, we drop old ones. Christopher Intagliata reports.
"So every time we adopt a new place, we abandon another one. This is how we reshape our routines." Andrea Baronchelli, a physicist at City, University of London. "So we are actually boring at any point in time. But over the course of time we change the places we are boring in."
Baronchelli and his team analyzed the movements of nearly 40,000 people worldwide, using mostly anonymized location data from the Sony Lifelog app. And they found that—regardless of age, gender, geographic location—as users explored new places, they maintained a steady roster of about 25 regular haunts.
"I think this is really a universal, a deep property of us as humans, of the way we balance this tension between exploration and exploitation."
The researchers did see a link between how active study subjects were socially and the number of spots they frequented. People who were more active had a slightly higher number of regular spots. The scientists estimated social activity by phone calls, texts and Facebook interactions. That finding suggests that our friends could ramp up our exploratory behavior. The results are in the journal Nature Human Behavior. [Laura Alessandretti et al., Evidence for a conserved quantity in human mobility]
The researchers themselves admit that their lunch routine is in keeping with their discovery. "Every day we say we should try something else, and then we say, 'maybe tomorrow.'"
[The above text is a transcript of this podcast.]