Oddly Enough

Phone study confirms people are creatures of habit

File photo shows person on cell phone. REUTERS/Yuriko Nakao

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Researchers who tracked 100,000 people using their cell phone signals confirmed on Wednesday that most human beings are indeed creatures of habit.

Most of us go to work, to school and back home in surprisingly predictable patterns, something the researchers said would be useful in city planning and preparing for emergencies.

“Despite the diversity of their travel history, humans follow simple reproducible patterns,” Albert-Laszlo Barabasi of Northeastern University in Boston and colleagues wrote in their report, published in the journal Nature.

“This inherent similarity in travel patterns could impact all phenomena driven by human mobility, from epidemic prevention to emergency response, urban planning and agent-based modeling,” they added.

They used data collected by a European mobile phone carrier for billing and operational purposes. “It contains the date, time and coordinates of the phone tower routing the communication for each phone call and text message sent or received by 6 million customers,” they wrote.

Their research was done on 100,000 of those users, who were kept anonymous. Journeys of more than 600 miles were not included.

Reporting by Maggie Fox; Editing by Will Dunham and Peter Cooney