A STUDY which monitored the movements of 100,000 commuters using their mobile phone signals has found few people stray more than a few miles from the comfort zone of home.
The research, published in Nature, concluded nearly three-quarters of individuals tended to stay within a 20-mile radius, with close to half remaining within an even smaller distance of six miles.
The findings, researchers claim, provide a sharp pin-prick to mankind's perception of itself as free-willed and impulsive, but might also serve a practical purpose, allowing for the design of improved transport systems, urban planning and disease monitoring.
However, some anthropologists suggested the study's "limited" scope cannot offer a representative picture of mankind's movements and habits in general.
Conducted in an unnamed industrialised nation, the team at the Massachusetts-based Northeastern University assembled a pattern of everyday commuting common in the Western world.
Most people make the same journeys time and again.
The patterns differ only slightly from foraging animals probably because most humans are not completely free to roam but have to turn up to work every day.
Professor Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, who led the study, said: "Despite the fact that we think of ourselves as spontaneous and unpredictable, we do have our patterns."
Cesar Hidalgo, a physics researcher and the study's co-author, added: "There's a lot of people who don't like hectic lives. Travel is such a hassle."