Yes, people really do walk in circles when they are lost, scientists in the Multisensory Perception and Action Group at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany, have proved. But only if they have no landmarks to guide them and if the sun is hidden.
“Small random errors in the various sensory signals that provide information about walking direction add up over time, making what a person perceives to be straight ahead drift away from the true straight ahead direction,” according to Souman.
Marc Ernst, Group Leader at the MPI for Biological Cybernetics, said: “The results from these experiments show that even though people may be convinced they are walking in a straight line, their perception is not always reliable.
“Additional, more cognitive, strategies are necessary to really walk in a straight line. People need to use reliable cues for walking direction in their environment, for example a tower or mountain in the distance, or the position of the sun.”
Researchers tested the theory that walking in circles might be caused by differences in leg length, but they found that blindfolded people when told to walk straight veered in all sorts of directions unrelated to which leg was long or short. So, basically it’s official…we’d all be walking in circles if it wasn’t for Google Maps 😛
As a metaphor this explains a lot about human history too….