There's plenty of theories as to why this may be the case: Your memory may just be faulty; The perception of time changes as the first time your brain was processing 'everything' due to the route being unknown but reduced the perception of time when it recognised a familiar route and didn't need to process so much; It actually was faster, you spent less time evaluating which way to go and second and subsequent times took a faster route, etc, etc.

But is there a word for this?

  • 1
    It’s probably the so called “Well travelled road effect” , a cognitive bias in which travellers will estimate the time taken to traverse routes differently depending on their familiarity with the route. en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Well_travelled_road_effect
    – user 66974
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 17:22
  • Basic geography, one would suppose.
    – Ricky
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 17:30
  • If the initial trip is mostly uphill, then the return trip is naturally quicker.
    – Ricky
    Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 17:31
  • 1
    Because on the way there you thought you might be late, and so the trip seemed to take forever, being full of holdups and red lights. On the way back you are more relaxed and the journey seems to be quicker. Commented Oct 20, 2018 at 17:53

2 Answers 2


This is known as the "return trip effect".

From a 2015 study:

The return trip often seems shorter than the outward trip even when the distance and actual time are identical. To date, studies on the return trip effect have failed to confirm its existence in a situation that is ecologically valid in terms of environment and duration. In addition, physiological influences as part of fundamental timing mechanisms in daily activities have not been investigated in the time perception literature. The present study compared round-trip and non-round-trip conditions in an ecological situation. Time estimation in real time and postdictive estimation were used to clarify the situations where the return trip effect occurs. Autonomic nervous system activity was evaluated from the electrocardiogram using the Lorenz plot to demonstrate the relationship between time perception and physiological indices. The results suggest that the return trip effect is caused only postdictively. Electrocardiographic analysis revealed that the two experimental conditions induced different responses in the autonomic nervous system, particularly in sympathetic nervous function, and that parasympathetic function correlated with postdictive timing. To account for the main findings, the discrepancy between the two time estimates is discussed in the light of timing strategies, i.e., prospective and retrospective timing, which reflect different emphasis on attention and memory processes. Also each timing method, i.e., the verbal estimation, production or comparative judgment, has different characteristics such as the quantification of duration in time units or knowledge of the target duration, which may be responsible for the discrepancy. The relationship between postdictive time estimation and the parasympathetic nervous system is also discussed.


Assuming that the actual time for both trips is the same, and it just feels as if the trip is faster when travelling in one direction, I don't think there's a single word for it. A couple of phrases are time perception and psychological time.

From www.exactlywhatistime.com (emphasis in the original):

Time perception refers to a person’s subjective experience of the passage of time, or the perceived duration of events, which can differ significantly between different individuals and/or in different circumstances. Although physical time appears to be more or less objective, psychological time is subjective and potentially malleable, exemplified by common phrases like “time flies when you are having fun” and “a watched pot never boils”. This malleability is made particularly apparent by the various temporal illusions we experience.

As a field of study within psychology and neuroscience, time perception came of age in the late 19th Century with the studies of the relationship between perceived and measured time by one of the founders of modern experimental psychology, Gustav Theodor Fechner.

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