Walking in Circles

Meghan Holohan

In many horror movies, there's a scene when the captives try to escape. After hours of attempted fleeing, the characters realize they'd been walking in circles, and they're as close to the murderer as they were when they started.

Turns out there's something to this. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Germany discovered that when people are lost in the woods or the dark, they do, in fact, walk in circles.

Scientists gave nine people GPS devices and instructed them to either walk through the woods or the desert in a straight line. Two of the three people who walked in the desert during the day walked in a straight line. The third began walking on a straight path in the evening and when the clouds covered the moon, he began walking in circles. Hikers in the forests struggled to keep a straight path. But if it were cloudy or dark, they circled around. Sometimes they repeated the same circle every 10 minutes.

Participants refused to admit they followed the same path over and over, though. "They didn't really believe when we showed them afterwards," Jan Souman, lead researcher, told ABC News. "I think that's certainly a point to take away, people may feel very confident about the direction where they're going but it's not certain."