“Circles don’t get you anywhere”

“Circles don’t get you anywhere” says Randy Gallistal, and he should know. Randy is a cognitive neuroscientist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “Most dead hikers, after all, are found within a mile, if not 100 meters from where they got lost”, he continues “if you get lost, it’s important to know that your body might end up doing the opposite of what your brain intends”.

The results showed in an experiment that was published in the journal Current Biology. “Just walking in a straight line seems like such a simple and natural thing to do, but if you think about it, it’s quite a complicated thing to do”, said Jan Souman, a psychologist at Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. What also showed up was that no matter how hard people tried to walk in a straight line, they often ended up going in circles without ever realizing that they were crossing their own paths.

In a follow-up experiment, the researchers challenged 15 people to walk straight while blindfolded. When they couldn’t see at all, the walkers ended going in surprisingly small circles – with a diameter of less than 66 feet. In repeated attempts, blindfolded walkers circled in one direction sometimes and in the opposite direction others times. The blindfold experiment dispelled one theory- that people might walk in circles because one leg tends to be longer or stronger than the other. Instead Souman suspect that little mistakes in the brain add up until the sense of what’s straight turns into something round.

Well it looks like the hamster wheel ended up being the way our brains are wired, who would have thought that being on that wheel was not only getting you nowhere, but that if you got off of it, you would end up still going in circles.

Want to get off the hamster wheel?

Want to stop going in circles?

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