Why We Hate Waiting in Line

Americans will spend 37 billion hours waiting in lines this year but how we experience that wait depends more on our psychology than it does any objective measure of time spent waiting. 

What's the Latest Development?


Americans will spend roughly 37 billion hours waiting in lines this year and whether we feel merely inconvenienced or thoroughly frazzled by the wait depends more on our psychology than on any objective measure of time spent waiting. Standing in line for five minutes represents unoccupied time, which people tend to report as lasting longer than the same five minutes of occupied time. In an attempt to alleviate our stress, businesses have responded by occupying us, whether that means placing mirrors in elevators, or tabloids and packets of gum at the grocery store checkout lane.

What's the Big Idea?

Beyond our individual experiences of waiting in line, orderly queues represent an attempt by society to be fair, with those who cut the line subject not only to the ire of people behind them but people in front of them, as well. "A study of fans in line for U2 tickets found that people are just as upset by slips and skips that occur behind them, and thus don’t lengthen their wait, as they are by those in front of them." Our fairness standard also states that waiting time should be proportional to the value of what we are waiting for, which explains the express checkout lane at grocery stores, a rare socially-sanctioned violation of first-come-first-served principle.

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

 

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Sponsored
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

This 1997 Jeff Bezos interview proves he saw the future coming

Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon.com, explains his plan for success.

Technology & Innovation
  • Jeff Bezos had a clear vision for Amazon.com from the start.
  • He was inspired by a statistic he learned while working at a hedge fund: In the '90s, web usage was growing at 2,300% a year.
  • Bezos explains why books, in particular, make for a perfect item to sell on the internet.
Keep reading Show less
Promotional photo of Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister on Game of Thrones
Surprising Science
  • It's commonly thought that the suppression of female sexuality is perpetuated by either men or women.
  • In a new study, researchers used economics games to observe how both genders treat sexually-available women.
  • The results suggests that both sexes punish female promiscuity, though for different reasons and different levels of intensity.
Keep reading Show less

TESS telescope has found eight new planets, six supernovae

It has found several bizarre planets outside of our solar system.

NASA/Kim Shiflett
Surprising Science
  • The Kepler program closed down in August, 2018, after nine and a half years of observing the universe.
  • Picking up where it left off, the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has already found eight planets, three of which scientists are very excited about, and six supernovae.
  • In many ways, TESS is already outperforming Kepler, and researchers expect it to find more than 20,000 exoplanets over its lifespan.
Keep reading Show less