Science Solves Age-Old Mystery of Why the Trip Home Always Seems Shorter


Pondering the long-held befuddler of why getting somewhere always seems to take longer than coming home afterward (and it’s not because you’re running late, or had a few drinks upon arrival at your location), science has determined that the return trip seems shorter because…your expectations have changed! In the study, 350 people took a bus or bike trip, or watched a video of a person taking a bike ride. Upon being quizzed about duration times, they felt that the the home journey, as experienced or viewed, went by “22 percent faster than the outward journey” — even though it was the same.

But, fascinatingly, participants who were told that their upcoming trip would seem long did not have the return trip effect — and they felt their outgoing trip actually took less time.

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.’

All of this debunks the common theory that the return journey feels shorter because it’s better known and more predictable. Share that with a friend over beers tonight after overestimating how long it will take to get to the bar and watch his or her face plummet to the ground in shock.

In a nutshell, people are weird, and so is science.

Why the return journey always seems quicker (and it’s not due to being more familiar with the route) [Daily Mail]