How to walk in circles without really trying

People go around and around when deprived of external heading cues

1:40pm, August 20, 2009

In one scene of the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project, three film students searching for a legendary creature hike for hours only to end up at the spot where they had started.

Their misfortune is not just a suspenseful twist in a fictional world, says psychologist Jan Souman of the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany. Given no external cues to direction, people trying to walk straight over unfamiliar terrain end up doing intermittent loop-de-loops, Souman and his colleagues report in a paper published online August 20 in Current Biology.

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