Why does return journey seem ending quickly?

September 1st, 2011 - 4:52 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Sep 1 (IANS) Ever thought why at times the back journey from any place seems shorter than previously felt, despite both the distances being same?

A research has shown it happens due to people’s different expectations instead of the route’s familiarity, Daily Mail reported.

Lead researcher Niels van de Ven, of Tilburg University in the Netherlands, said: “People often underestimate how long the outward journey takes and this is therefore experienced as long.”

“Based on that feeling, the traveller expects the return journey to be long as well, and this then turns out to be shorter than expected.”

An over-optimistic prior estimation of the journey time leads to the illusion of the return journey being shorter, the researchers said.

The conclusion was based on three short studies where 350 people either undertook a journey by bus, bicycle or watched a video of a person taking a bicycle ride.

When the duration estimates were compared, respondents felt that the return journey on average went by 22 percent faster than the outward journey.

The return-trip-effect was largest for participants, who reported that the initial trip felt disappointingly long.

When one group of participants was informed that the upcoming trip would seem long, the return-trip-effect disappeared.

Interestingly, telling participants that the upcoming trip was going to be very long led them to experience the trip as taking less time.

A popular explanation for the return journey feeling shorter was described — as it was better known and so more predictable than the outward journey.

The researchers, however, showed that this explanation was unlikely.

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,” said Roy.

The research has been published in the journal Springer’s Psychonomic Bulletin & Review.

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