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The Return Trip Effect: A car simulator study examining anticipation

The Return Trip Effect is the sense that travelling back from a location feels shorter than the initial outgoing trip. This phenomenon directly involves our subjective perception of time, which turns out to be imprecise and easily misguided. Previous research has shown that numerous factors influence our time perception, and subsequently the Return Trip Effect; these factors include familiarity, violation of expectations, novelty, anticipation, workload and ambiguity. This study aimed to further investigate the influence of anticipation on the Return Trip Effect using a driving simulator. The study used a quantitative experimental research design to achieve this objective, questionnaires were used to obtain the estimated times and the various cognitive states of the drivers. Seventy-four people participated in a one-hour structured experiment. The participants were randomly assigned into one of three conditions: an outgoing, return, or non-anticipation group. Participants drove on a simulated road for about twelve minutes to a midway point, and then returned on that same road back to the starting point. The participants answered questions at the halfway point and at the end point, these questions included estimated driving times and included different measures of participants’ cognitive load, such as boredom, mind-wandering, and excitement levels. The manipulated variable was the positioning of the anticipation during the experiment, which was either after the first trip or the second trip, the control group had no anticipation. The findings showed a strong Return Trip Effect overall, however no significant difference in trip magnitude was found between the three conditions. The results revealed that several other factors that may affect the Return Trip Effect.
Type of thesis
The University of Waikato
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