A Mystery: Why Can’t People Walk in a Straight Line?

Try as you might, you can’t walk in a straight line without a visible guide point, like the Sun or a star. You might think you’re walking straight, but as NPR’s Robert Krulwich reports, a map of your route would reveal you are doomed to walk in circles.

So, anyone here care to explain the reason why human beings can’t walk in a straight line?

[Via Reddit]

Advertisement





30 Responses to A Mystery: Why Can’t People Walk in a Straight Line?

  1. "Try as you might, you can’t walk in a straight line without a visible guide point." Tell that to the blind guy that crosses the city only with a stick.

    • You make a very interesting point. I think they develop another sense to guide them judging by the fact that they develop the other senses more than we do.

  2. It is like u have 2 wheels on each side with time one wheel is getting bigger and more dominant so it will turn in a curve ..same thing here depend on if u r lefty or righty if u r lefty then ur left foot take a bigger step than ur right step and it increases in time

  3. I would be curious to see if this works in the opposite direction in the southern hemisphere. If it is, could be we have some type of homing beacon or sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.

  4. I don't see that this needs an explanation. What would need an explanation is if we could walk in a straight line. Clearly we have internal hardware which gives us some notion of whether or not we are heading a straight line. The hardware is of course not perfect, it cannot determine slow changes. As a result, based on that alone we are clearly not going to be able to maintain a straight line.

  5. I would be interested to note any correlation between degree on non-straight-line-ness and motion sickness.

    From memory, our sense of balance is based on the alignment and movement of a set of non-symmetrical bones related to the ear; the lack of symmetry in this system may be giving rise to any tendency to walk in a curved plane when lacking visual cues. Of course, I could simply be making this up.

    • That is an interesting point of view. These tests were done with sober people. Since the drunks are not walking straight, if you blind fold them and make them walk on a field, would they go straight?

  6. we all have one dominant leg its the one you use to start your way up a set of stairs its stronger and pushes just a little bit more thus the circle just like in a row boat when there is unequal strength rowing on each side.

  7. we all have one dominant leg its the one you use to start your way up a set of stairs its stronger and pushes just a little bit more thus the circle just like in a row boat when there is unequal strength rowing on each side.

  8. Here's a simple theory i just thought of, its a internal mechanism to keep us from getting lost from our origin. Hear me out, humans are social animals and as such they live and travel in groups usually. Now if an individual had no fixed point to go towards they stray off in one way or another, but as a group their bodies will end up naturally taking a course that will lead them back to the point of origin until the environment is favorable to fixed point navigation, thus preventing each other from getting lost.

    • Your theory seems factible, Nevertheless I can't think on a way of testing that in order to prove it.

      Sorry if I didn't make my point very well. Since I'm not a native speaker I may have misused some words

  9. we all have one dominant leg its the one you use to start your way up a set of stairs its stronger and pushes just a little bit more thus the circle just like in a row boat when there is unequal strength rowing on each side.

  10. I think it's physical asymmetries or "handedness" in people. When a fixed reference, whether visible or audible, is present, we automatically and insensibly adjust; but without that corrective cue, we gauge our position by our asymmetrical, and highly subjective, proprioception and kinesthesia. I think the fact that the map courses were all curved more or less consistently, instead of looking like a Drunkard's Walk map, is a strong indicator that the phenomenon is a consistent asymmetry in the walker/swimmer.

    The fact that the driver followed a more interesting "figure-8" course suggests to me that he may have taken external cues from his vehicle- steering wheel position, for example.

    It would be interesting to see whether any biometric asymmetries of a given walker or swimmer could be found to correlate with the curvature of the path.