Why the return journey seems shorter

Why the return journey seems shorter

Have you ever wondered why the return trip seems shorter?

Most people would argue that the feeling that the trip home seems to go by faster is caused by increasing familiarity with the route. However, new research indicates that the so-called "return trip effect" is caused by people’s expectations.

Niels van de Ven, a professor of psychology at Tilburg University and lead researcher, explains: "People often underestimate how long the outward journey takes and this is therefore experienced as longer (than it is). Based on that feeling, the traveler expects the return journey to be long as well, and this then turns out to be shorter than expected." 

The study, which is published in the journal Springer’s Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, included 360 people, who stated than on average, the return journey felt 22% faster.

According to co-author Michael Roy, from Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania: "The return trip effect also existed when respondents took a different, but equidistant, return route.. You do not need to recognise a route to experience the effect."

"These findings may allow new predictions on how people experience the duration of tasks, even those unrelated to travelling," van de Ven concluded.



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