Observational studies of human collective motion generally rely on volunteers following simple behavioral rules or simulating situations of panic. While these studies are guided by ethical principles for human studies, extreme forms of collective motion arising in real-world scenarios can occur when the participants are in atypical and highly stressed psychological states. As a consequence, our empirical understanding of the most dangerous forms of human collective motion are limited by a scarcity of data. We can begin to address this challenge by studying the audience at heavy metal concerts. This unique group of people offers an ethical testbed for probing the most extreme forms of human collective motion. The phenomenology we find in this social context sheds new insights on how groups of people move, and suggests new strategies to minimize genuine harm in situations of riots, protests, or escape panic.
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