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Information measures and cognitive limits in multilayer navigation

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Abstract

Cities and their transportation systems become increasingly complex and multimodal as they grow, and it is natural to wonder if it is possible to quantitatively characterize our difficulty to navigate in them and whether such navigation exceeds our cognitive limits. A transition between different searching strategies for navigating in metropolitan maps has been observed for large, complex metropolitan networks. This evidence suggests the existence of another limit associated to the cognitive overload and caused by large amounts of information to process. In this light, we analyzed the world's 15 largest metropolitan networks and estimated the information limit for determining a trip in a transportation system to be on the order of 8 bits. Similar to the "Dunbar number," which represents a limit to the size of an individual's friendship circle, our cognitive limit suggests that maps should not consist of more than about $250$ connections points to be easily readable. We also show that including connections with other transportation modes dramatically increases the information needed to navigate in multilayer transportation networks: in large cities such as New York, Paris, and Tokyo, more than $80\%$ of trips are above the 8-bit limit. Multimodal transportation systems in large cities have thus already exceeded human cognitive limits and consequently the traditional view of navigation in cities has to be revised substantially.

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cea-01180173 , version 1 (24-07-2015)

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Riccardo Gallotti, Mason A. Porter, Marc Barthelemy. Information measures and cognitive limits in multilayer navigation. 2015. ⟨cea-01180173⟩
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