The return trip effect: Why the return trip often seems to take less time

Niels van de Ven, Tilburg Institute for Behavioral Economics Research
Leon van Rijswijk, Technische Universiteit Eindhoven
Michael M. Roy, Elizabethtown College


Three studies confirm the existence of the return trip effect: The return trip often seems shorter than the initial trip, even though the distance traveled and the actual time spent traveling are identical. A pretest shows that people indeed experience a return trip effect regularly, and the effect was found on a bus trip (Study 1), a bicycle trip (Study 2), and when participants watched a video of someone else traveling (Study 3). The return trip effect also existed when another, equidistant route was taken on the return trip, showing that it is not familiarity with the route that causes this effect. Rather, it seems that a violation of expectations causes this effect. © 2011 The Author(s).