The Washington Post:
If the people who study the psychology of waiting in line — yes, there is such a thing — have an origin story, it’s this:
It was the 1950s, and a high-rise office building in Manhattan had a problem. The tenants complained of an excessively long wait for the elevator when people arrived in the morning, took their lunch break, and left at night. Engineers examined the building and determined that nothing could be done to speed up the service.
Desperate to keep his tenants, the building manager turned to his staff for suggestions. One employee noted that people were probably just bored and recommended installing floor-to-ceiling mirrors near the elevators, so people could look at themselves and each other while waiting. This was done, and complaints dropped to nearly zero.
Another important factor is the speed and pacing of the line. Research by Daniel Kahneman, the psychologist whose work sparked a broad rethinking in economics, argues that consumers waiting in line experience a dual response: They become gradually demoralized as they wait but have a positive response to each forward movement of the queue. Their overall feeling about the experience depends on how these two responses balance out.
Other research by Kahneman on how people remember unpleasant activities suggests that the way we remember a line is heavily influenced by how the experience ends. A line that starts slow and speeds up is very different, and psychologically preferable, from waiting in a line that starts fast and then slows to a crawl.
Read the whole story: The Washington Post