yes, therapy helps!
Why is the return trip shorter than the return trip?

Why is the return trip shorter than the return trip?

April 2, 2024

If every time you go on vacation you have the feeling that the outward journey is always longer than the return trip , you're not alone. There is a tendency for people to perceive the return as if it lasted somewhat less than the outward journey, although objectively the distances traveled are exactly the same. This seems to indicate, at least, some research.

The "return trip effect": return trips, shorter

One of the studies on this topic was conducted in 2011 by a group of Dutch psychologists who started this project when they realized what was happening to them and decided to study what could be called the "return trip effect" or "return trip effect." " The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Tilburg, They carried out three experiments to verify the extent to which this phenomenon is widespread and under what conditions it occurs.


In the first one, 69 people had to make a round trip by bus and then, on a scale of 11 points, the length of each of these two trips. Although both trips were equally long, when the outward journey lasted longer than expected, people tended to rate the return as if it were shorter.

The second experiment was designed to reveal the effect it had on the perception of travel time, whether or not people knew the route the return trip was taking. For this, several group outings were scheduled by bicycle. in which some people returned by where they had gone and another part of the group returned by another route different but of equal length. However, people from both groups tended to perceive the return trip as shorter.

In the third and last experiment, the participants did not have to move from where they were but see a video in which a person went to a friend's house and returned, taking exactly 7 minutes on each of these two trips. Once this was done, the 139 participants were divided into several groups and each of them was asked to estimate the time that had passed during the outward journey or the return trip.

The conclusions of the three studies

While the appreciation of the passage of time was adjusted to reality in those people responsible for estimating the duration of the return trip (estimated an average of 7 minutes), people who were asked about the outward journey tended to add several minutes to the actual time elapsed (They gave an average of 9 and a half minutes). In addition, curiously, this effect disappeared in those people who before seeing the video had been told that the trips lasted a lot, since they were more realistic when judging the duration of the return.

In general, summarizing the study findings, the researchers found that people who participated in the experiments they tended to perceive the return trip 22% shorter .

A more recent case

In a more recent investigation whose results have been published in PLOS One, scientists from Kyoto University asked a number of participants to judge the length of the outbound and return trip they saw in a video recording. In one of the cases, the participants would see a round trip along the same path, and in the other case they would see a one-way trip along the same path that was shown to the people of the first group but the return would go through a totally different. But nevertheless, the durations and distances of the three possible courses were exactly the same .

The people who saw the round trip through the same route t there was a feeling that the return was significantly shorter , whereas the participants of the group in which the return was produced by a route different from the one of the going did not notice difference in the duration.

How is this explained?

It is not known exactly why the return trip effect , but most likely it has to do with our way of assessing the passage of time in retrospect, that is, once the return trip has already elapsed. The Dutch researchers in charge of conducting the first experiments believe that this curious phenomenon has to do with the negative appreciation of a too long first trip, which makes that, by comparison, the return seems shorter by adjusting more to our expectations.

Another explanation would be that we are more likely to worry more about the passage of time on the way out , because this is associated with the idea of ​​arriving on time to a place, while the same does not usually happen on the way back.In this way, the brain allocates more resources to concentrate over the course of minutes and seconds to look for possible shortcuts and thus satisfy certain objectives.

Bibliographic references:

  • Ozawa R, Fujii K and Kouzaki M (2015). The Return Trip Is Felt Shorter Only Postdictively: A Psychophysiological Study of the Return Trip Effect. PLOS One, 10 (6), e0127779
  • Van de Ven, N., Van Rijswijk, L. and Roy, M. M. (2011). The return trip effect: Why the return trip often seems to take less time. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 18 (5), pp. 827-832.

Researchers Studied Why Return Trip Seems Shorter (April 2024).

Similar Articles