Why Return Trips Seem Shorter

It's not about familiarity with the route, study suggests
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Sep 15, 2011 5:02 PM CDT
Why does the trip seem shorter on the way back?   (Shutterstock)

(Newser) – Ever noticed how the trip home from your destination always seems shorter than the trip there? The standard explanation is that on the way back, you’re familiar with the route. But scientists in the Netherlands are contesting that view, offering a different explanation centered on expectations, MSNBC reports. On the outward journey, people are too optimistic, making the trip take longer than expected. Thus, on the way back, they're prepared for another long trip—and the actual trip seems shorter.

In one study, the researcher's team interviewed bus riders on a full-day trip in which both the outward and return journeys were the same length. The longer the outbound trip felt compared to a rider’s expectations, the shorter the way back seemed. Over the course of multiple studies, “people felt the return trip was about 22% shorter than the initial trip,” said the researcher.

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