Dynamic Guidance by Colored Running Lights and Affordance: Route Choices of Adults and Older Children

Laura Künzer, Robert Zinke, Gesine Hofinger


Abstract Guidance to emergency exits play an important role for safe evacuation. Dynamic route guidance by colored flashing lights and strobe lights at emergency exits has been tested [1–3], but the effects of dynamic lights to support route choices need to be determined in more detail. Also, the guidance effects of different colors need to be examined and the reaction of various groups of evacuees. The paper analyzes the effects of red and green running lights on route choice in subway stations comparing adults and older children (10 to 12 years old). Data was gathered in a laboratory experiment, focusing on the concept of affordance [4, 5]. Participants were asked to make a decision about the safest direction between two alternative directions. Their choice was either unsupported or supported by red or green running lights. In general, an interaction between color and direction of the running light was found. Green running lights influenced route choices of both participant groups and led participants clearly into the direction indicated by the lights. Red running lights influenced route choices of both participant groups, but red lights lead to ambiguous decisions. Architectural elements such as stairs influenced route choices of both participant groups (functional affordance). But green running light offered a stronger indication to a safe route (cognitive affordance) than a visible staircase (functional affordance). Green lights even led participants to modify their route preference. In contrast, red running lights had an aversive effect: older children chose against the lights and preferred the other direction than the red lights were directing to. Implications for design of dynamic route guidance are discussed. This includes colored running lights to lead evacuees to a safe exit and to implement the influence of running lights on route choice and movement in simulations.


evacuation; guidance; red and green lights; route choice; adults; older children; emergency exit

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17815/CD.2020.53

Copyright (c) 2020 Laura Künzer, Robert Zinke, Gesine Hofinger

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