Why does the way there feel longer than the way back?
Asked by Hannah Tucker
Time ticks steadily on – but our minds don’t. When we get nervous, scared or anxious, the body’s ‘ fight
or flight’ response is triggered: adrenaline surges around the body, heart rate increases and pupils dilate. Your body primes itself for action – and so does your brain. The brain ‘ fires’ more rapidly, helping you to make decisions very quickly. And as your brain shifts up a gear, time consequently appears to slow down. If you’ve ever jumped off a cliff into the sea (don’t do it), it probably felt like the fall lasted several seconds. In reality it was probably less than one. Likewise, when you’re travelling somewhere, you are probably feeling ever-so-slightly more anxious than how you feel on the way home. It may be the excitement of going to a nice hotel, or the worry of getting lost. These heightened anxiety levels will make time feel as if is passing more slowly. However, there is another reason related to our horribly fallible memory: everyone’s memory is subject to a psychological phenomenon called ‘ telescoping’. When did you last see your Great Aunt Daphne? Was it a couple of days, a few weeks, or a couple of months? It is probably longer ago than it feels. This ‘telescoping effect’ means your most recent memories will nearly always feel as though they happened more recently than they did. So, as you sit in the departure lounge considering how long it took to travel from home to the airport, it will feel as if you arrived at check-in much sooner than you did. The memory of setting off from home will not be ‘telescoped’ as much – giving the overall effect that the travelling time was longer than it was.