The cry wolf effect in evacuation: A game-theoretic approach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In today's terrorism-prone and security-focused world, evacuation emergencies, drills, and false alarms are becoming more and more common. Compliance to an evacuation order made by an authority in case of emergency can play a key role in the outcome of an emergency. In case an evacuee experiences repeated emergency scenarios which may be a false alarm (e.g., an evacuation drill, a false bomb threat, etc.) or an actual threat, the Aesop's cry wolf effect (repeated false alarms decrease order compliance) can severely affect his/her likelihood to evacuate. To analyse this key unsolved issue of evacuation research, a game-theoretic approach is proposed. Game theory is used to explore mutual best responses of an evacuee and an authority. In the proposed model the authority obtains a signal of whether there is a threat or not and decides whether to order an evacuation or not. The evacuee, after receiving an evacuation order, subsequently decides whether to stay or leave based on posterior beliefs that have been updated in response to the authority's action. Best-responses are derived and Sequential equilibrium and Perfect Bayesian Equilibrium are used as solution concepts (refining equilibria with the intuitive criterion). Model results highlight the benefits of announced evacuation drills and suggest that improving the accuracy of threat detection can prevent large inefficiencies associated with the cry wolf effect.


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Probability Theory and Statistics


  • Cry wolf effect, Emergency, Evacuation, Game theory, Safety policy
Original languageEnglish
Article number120890
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Publication categoryResearch