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.


Curiosity is a natural ability and innate inquisitive behaviour, evident from the observation of many animals species and humans, that engenders exploration, research and learning. Curiosity causes one to explore the universe around oneself, compiling new information from what one already has.

[translated from the portugese wikipedia]

Thanks to Jenny for the tip.

The Pink Clink

photo by Jaime R. Carrero

“If it’s pink, it stinks!”
- Scott Dabbs, inmate, Van Zandt County Criminal Justice Center

The Van Zandt County Jail in Texas has been painted pink. The classic orange jumpsuit has also been opted out for a pink version. If prisoners get a good behaviour record, they are upgraded to the classic black & white striped jailsuit.

“We’re not trying to do something negative; we’re doing something positive,” Sheriff Pat Burnett said. “We’re doing this in an ethical way.”

Understandably, this would not work everywhere and is rooted in a western mindset towards colour and gender roles. This here is a great example of altering a simple component in the environment, in order to influence rather than prevent wrong behaviour.

Say ‘e’


“[A series of experiments] show that positive emotion and cooler facial temperatures result when people saying the letter “e” or the sound “ah” over and over again, apparently because making these sounds requires a smile-like expression. These [experiments] also show that negative emotion (and hotter facial temperatures) result from repeating sounds like the letter O or the German vowel ü, apparently because making these sounds require a frown-like expression to pronounce. This effect was found to be equally strong in both German and American research subjects.