Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Is a Long, Smooth Commute Better Than a Short, Frustrating One?

When I lived in Virginia, I had a 6-mile, 30-minute commute down the two-lane Interstate 66, characterized by riding the brakes and inching along. Now in the Bay Area, when I'm not taking advantage of the techno-elite bus, my drive is 50 miles down Interstate 280. No matter when you leave, you can usually find enough space to go over the speed limit, so you're constantly making good progress. Still, since it's so far, it's about double my previous commute time. Yet I am finding myself less annoyed with the new one.

This recalls the peak-end rule discussed in Thinking, Fast and Slow. The intro from Wikipedia is spot on:

The Peak-End rule is a theory that describes how humans hedonically evaluate past experiences. This heuristic process leads people to judge an experience by its most intense point and its end, as opposed to the total sum or average of every moment of the experience. It occurs regardless of whether a ‘peak’ is pleasant or unpleasant, and regardless of the duration of the experience.

I know intellectually that an hour commuting is longer than half an hour, but the objective experience is much better. My new commute is not punctuated by any frustrating moments, unlike my life in congested Northern Virginia. If anything, it's kind of awesome to be driving 75-80 mph at 8 a.m. on a major freeway.


Adam Gurri said...

Better a long commute you can read during than a short commute you have to pay attention during that may include frustrating traffic and such.