Are We There Yet? An Anticipation Account of the Return Trip Effect

Zoey Chen, Ryan Hamilton, Derek D. Rucker

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Research has documented the psychological phenomenon in which the trip back from a destination is experienced as shorter than the trip to the destination. Deemed the “return trip effect” (RTE), prior work explained this phenomenon in terms of differential familiarity between home and outbound destination or an underestimation of initial travel time. The present article posits an anticipation account for the RTE: Outbound trips to a destination tend to foster higher levels of anticipation than return trips. Due to greater anticipation, people’s perception of time elongates. Importantly, the anticipation account makes novel predictions with regard to the occurrence of the RTE that cannot be accounted for by prior explanations. Multiple studies, with diverse methodologies, test and offer evidence in support of an anticipation account of the RTE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)258-265
Number of pages8
JournalSocial Psychological and Personality Science
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • anticipation
  • return trip effect
  • time perception

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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