The return trip feels shorter because of freedom, not familiarity


That explanation that psychologists came up with back in the 1950’s is incredibly specious because it’s not the same on the return trip because everything is backwards. The roads are different (and might require a different route due to one-way streets), and all of the sights are different because you are seeing everything from the other side. It is a completely different experience. Also, unless this is the first time you’ve been to that location, then the novel-there-familiar-back explanation makes no sense.

A better explanation is that the trip there is likely under a deadline while the return trip is more free. The pressure of trying to stick to a schedule puts added stress on the brain and makes time feel lengthened like most stressful or unpleasant situations have a tendency to do. The freedom of making it back at your own pace (melting ice-cream notwithstanding), relieves you of that burden and so the trip feels shorter.

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