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Why does the return trip feel shorter ?

Posted on Tuesday, 16 June, 2015 | Comment icon 15 comments

Can returning from somewhere really feel quicker ? Image Credit: CC BY-SA 2.0 Liam Quinn
Researchers have been attempting to determine why a return trip tends to feel like it took less time.
At some point in our lives most of us will have experienced the peculiar feeling that time has passed more quickly when returning from somewhere than it had done during the outward journey.

In a recent study scientists decided to test out the "return trip effect" for themselves by having a group of twenty volunteers watch a 26-minute video of someone walking around a town.

Half of the participants were shown a video of the person walking through two separate locations while the other half saw the person returning from their visit to the first area.

During the experiment the volunteers were asked to note whenever they believed three minutes had passed and were then asked to write down the total elapsed time at the end.

"By comparing the round-trip condition and the non-round-trip condition, it was confirmed that the return trip does actually make us feel that time is shorter," the researchers concluded.

"Moreover, our two methods of time estimation suggest that the return trip effect does not affect the timing mechanism itself, but rather our feeling of time postdictively."

What is happening within the brain to produce this effect however continues to remain a mystery.

Source: Medical Daily | Comments (15)

Tags: Time, Perception, Return Trip

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #6 Posted by Kiltedmusician on 16 June, 2015, 16:37
I've heard that this is how ocean currents were discovered. Sailors noticed that it took fewer days to return from a trip every time they went to a particular location and a current was discovered along their route. I think it's the same thing mentally. You fight your way there and then drift back home where your own fridge and chair await.
Comment icon #7 Posted by CRYSiiSx2 on 16 June, 2015, 19:39
It's anticipation. Nothing more.
Comment icon #8 Posted by mesuma on 16 June, 2015, 22:47
Not for me but I'm usually hungover.
Comment icon #9 Posted by little_dreamer on 16 June, 2015, 23:39
Return trips seem longer to me because I usually just want to get home. Also there is no sense of anticipation, so the time just drags on.
Comment icon #10 Posted by McFakename on 17 June, 2015, 4:04
Moved to be closer to my wife's family but now have to drive over 2 hours to visit my family. My wife and I have noticed this and discuss it every other trip or so. Best I could come up with is looking forward to being back in the home aka comfort zone...?
Comment icon #11 Posted by Sundew on 17 June, 2015, 14:18
On very long trips, and sometimes on short ones, I have noticed just the opposite. I feel like it takes forever to get home. Perhaps it's because I enjoy being home more than being away. So it could be it is anticipation that makes the trip seem longer or shorter depended on where you would rather be.
Comment icon #12 Posted by grandfunkrailroad on 18 June, 2015, 10:39
Well when walking home from the supermarket with my bags full of groceries, the returntrip feels a lot longer
Comment icon #13 Posted by Still Waters on 18 June, 2015, 11:01
I think it mostly depends where you're going and the reason for going there. If it's to do something you like or are looking forward to, the journey to get there can feel long and drawn out. If you'd rather not be going then your destination seems to arrive all too soon. Coming home I usually find journeys do go much quicker regardless of where I've been.
Comment icon #14 Posted by nothinglizx2 on 18 June, 2015, 15:48
its more anticipated.
Comment icon #15 Posted by mfluder on 26 June, 2015, 17:37
The writer of this article has apparently not flown back from NY to LA between two very large, very sleepy people.

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