2015
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Human Dynamics

Returners and explorers dichotomy in human mobility

Abstract
The availability of massive digital traces of human whereabouts has offered a series of novel insights on the quantitative patterns characterizing human mobility. In particular, numerous recent studies have lead to an unexpected consensus: the considerable variability in the characteristic travelled distance of individuals coexists with a high degree of predictability of their future locations. Here we shed light on this surprising coexistence by systematically investigating the impact of recurrent mobility on the characteristic distance travelled by individuals. Using both mobile phone and GPS data, we discover the existence of two distinct classes of individuals: returners and explorers. As existing models of human mobility cannot explain the existence of these two classes, we develop more realistic models able to capture the empirical findings. Finally, we show that returners and explorers play a distinct quantifiable role in spreading phenomena and that a correlation exists between their mobility patterns and social interactions.

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