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Science Museum

Science Museum visitors to provide new insight into human behaviour

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Visitors to the Science Museum this summer are being invited to participate in an experiment examining the role of groups and social identity in human behaviour, as part of new research conducted by scientists from UCL, University of St Andrews and University of Sussex.

What influences our behaviour? And what makes people act differently in different situations? The behaviour of those around us can affect us in a variety of circumstances from the mundane, such as crossing the road, to the extreme, such as responding to a disaster.

Crowds are sometimes said to affect our behaviour and emotions, often in powerful ways. This research will examine factors such as group size and composition to determine the effect that being in a crowd can have on human behaviour. 

How do you behave in a crowd? uses a new experimental tool called The Hive, developed by the researchers with support from Wellcome which enables them to examine how people behave in simple groups. They will use The Hive to investigate group decision-making and collective action, and in the past have even used it to see if participants can collaborate to create a live jazz performance

Psychologists have previously been restricted to carrying out psychometric experiments on one or two people, isolated from each other in laboratory cubicles. With The Hive, however, researchers are able to carry out precise psychological experiments with large numbers of people together in the same room, with all the accuracy and control of the lab.

Researchers Dr Daniel Richardson (UCL), Dr Fergus Neville (St Andrews) and Dr John Drury (Sussex) anticipate that these conditions will be more conducive to natural behaviour, therefore producing more valid results. 

Their aim is that through using The Hive to study simple group processes they will be able to conclude the experiment with a new understanding of the psychology of complex crowd dynamics. 'How do you behave in a crowd?' is designed to reveal how phenomena like riots are instigated, how they develop and the process by which a group sustains and encourages uniform behaviour.

'How do you behave in a crowd?' is the latest Live Science residency, an ongoing project where visitors can take part in scientific research in the Museum.

Experiments will take place in the Who am I? gallery every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday until 24 August, between 11.00-13.00 and 14.00-17.00. It is free, will take approximately 10 minutes to complete and is recommended for adults and children aged 6 and over.

Who am I? is supported by Wellcome, with additional support for Live Science from players of People’s Postcode Lottery.
 

ENDS

Notes to Editors

About the Science Museum
As the home of human ingenuity, the Science Museum’s world-class collection forms an enduring record of scientific, technological and medical achievements from across the globe. Welcoming over 3 million visitors a year, the Museum aims to make sense of the science that shapes our lives, inspiring visitors with iconic objects, award-winning exhibitions and incredible stories of scientific achievement. More information can be found at sciencemuseum.org.uk.

About Wellcome
Wellcome is a global charitable foundation dedicated to improving health. It supports bright minds in science, the humanities and the social sciences, as well as education, public engagement and the application of research to medicine. www.wellcome.ac.uk

About People’s Postcode Lottery
People’s Postcode Lottery is a charity lottery. Players play with their postcodes to win cash prizes while raising money for charities and good causes local to them. As an External Lottery Manager, People’s Postcode Lottery manages multiple society lotteries promoted by different causes and supporting a range of good causes. For details on which society lottery is running each week, visit postcodelottery.co.uk/society.

About Discover South Kensington
Discover South Kensington brings together the Science Museum and other leading cultural and educational organisations to promote innovation and learning. South Kensington is the home of science, arts and inspiration. Discovery is at the core of what happens here and there is so much to explore every day. discoversouthken.com