The Broken Escalator Phenomenon

We’ve all experienced it. The weird way our brain always assumes an escalator is moving, even when it’s stationary. Well trust it to science to investigate the reasons and psychology behind it:

“We investigated the physiological basis of the ‘broken escalator phenomenon’, namely the sensation that when walking onto an escalator which is stationary one experiences an odd sensation of imbalance, despite full awareness that the escalator is not going to move…The findings represent a motor aftereffect of walking onto a moving platform that occurs despite full knowledge of the changing context. As such, it demonstrates dissociation between the declarative and procedural systems in the CNS. Since gait velocity was raised before foot-sled contact, the findings are at least partly explained by open-loop, predictive behaviour. A cautious strategy of limb stiffness was not responsible for the aftereffect, as revealed by no increase in muscle cocontraction.”

from The broken escalator phenomenon. Aftereffect of walking onto a moving platform.

Personally, I rather like the feeling. However I think my quest to always “ride” a broken escalators has disappointingly educated my brain to understand that an escalator can have two states: moving and stationary.