The “Well Travelled Road Effect” and How It’s Affecting Your Team
Updated: Sep 10, 2022
The well-travelled road effect is a cognitive bias in which travellers will estimate the time taken to traverse routes differently depending on their familiarity with the route. Frequently travelled routes are assessed as taking a shorter time than unfamiliar routes.
This effect creates errors when estimating the most efficient route to an unfamiliar destination when one candidate route includes a familiar route whilst the other candidate route includes no familiar routes. The effect is most salient when subjects are driving but is still detectable for pedestrians and users of public transport.
I want you to think about the last time you were explaining a task to someone that you are extremely familiar with. Is the “Well Travelled Road Effect” effecting your judgement on how long that task will really take? I know a few times in my career where I’ve done this. It’s worth reflecting next time you are in this situation.