Thursday, November 27, 2008

Experts study the line in queuing

There are all types of queuing or lining up but it's doubtful that people would assess it as enjoyable...or interesting. For many of us having to wait in a line, for example, at the supermarket or buying fast food, is not a pleasurable experience especially when interlopers attempt to squeeze in front. But I digress.

Unbeknownst to most of us, lining up is now a subject of a study by experts in the field of queuing psychology.

Say what? Yup. Actually, one wonders what type of background would be required to be a line-up-psychologist.

A study is currently being done focusing on the psychology of the reaction of your ordinary people to lining up...and waiting for whatever.

The director of the Center for Engineering Systems Fundamentals at MIT, Richard Larson, believes that their findings may not always reduce wait times, but they can cut frustration and make people feel better . He should know having researched queuing psychology for more than twenty years.

Eliminating empty time, for example, makes waits seem shorter, Larson found in his research.

Visitors lining up for attractions at theme parks see this principle at work with queues that often use clever design and technology to make the line itself entertaining.

Read more about Larson's findings and theories here:

Personally, "line-jumpers" are the worst offenders but here's some basic queuing pschology 101:

- Occupied time feels shorter than unoccupied time

- People want to get started

- Anxiety makes waits seem longer

- Uncertain waits are longer than known, finite waits

Unexplained waits are longer than explained waits

- Unfair waits are longer than equitable waits

- The more valuable the service, the longer the customer will wait
- Solo waits feel longer than group waits

(Source: David H. Maister, "The Psychology of Waiting Lines")

Go figure that waiting in line is now considered a science!

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