Brief Report

Psychonomic Bulletin & Review

, 18:827

First online:

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

  • Niels van de VenAffiliated withSocial Psychology & TIBER, Tilburg University Email author 
  • , Leon van RijswijkAffiliated withEindhoven University of Technology
  • , Michael M. RoyAffiliated withElizabethtown 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.


Time perception Return trip effect Judgment and decision making