How Does Waiting in Line Affect Your Brain?

Waiting in line is a drag. There – we said it. We’re familiar with queueing up in almost all facets of our lives: waiting to pay for just a few items at the local grocery store, waiting to speak to a representative at a doctor’s office when you’re sick, or even waiting to enter a gated community when visiting a loved one. Seemingly, we don’t want to wait in line because it is tiresome; however, what if we told you there is scientific reasoning as to why human beings despise queueing up?

The Psychology of Queueing
There’s a complex history behind the psychology of queueing. According to The Washington Post, “A Danish engineer named A.K. Erlang developed the first mathematical models of how lines worked in the early 20th century to complement a new device at the time: the telephone.” This engineer made several key contributions to the industry, including the evaluation of the number of phone lines, equipment, and operators needed to keep telephone customers from waiting too long on the line. Erlang mapped out mathematical models to predict the length of time it would take to complete a successful telephone call in order to maintain customer satisfaction during the wait time.

Inherently, Erlang’s findings inspired other researchers to explore the ideology behind this study. Richard Larson, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, dove deeper into the subject by identifying this phenomenon as The Psychology of Queueing. Larson’s findings are accumulated through various observational studies, testimonials, and focus groups. The Psychology of Queueing explains the common thought processes one may experience while waiting in line.

  1. Humans have an innate need to be proactive.
  2. An individual’s perceived wait time is usually longer than the actual wait time.
  3. An aggressive wait time negatively affects an individual’s anxiety levels.
  4. Awareness of an exact wait time reduces an individual’s anxiety levels.
  5. Waiting in line directly correlates to an individual’s perception of social justice.

Since the release of Larson’s findings, businesses and communities have begun to implement new strategies to accommodate the “anti-waiting” ideology. If they try to distract individuals from each’s perceived wait time, a customer or guest’s experience is more likely to be a positive one. For example, amusement parks, like those at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida, have revamped ride queues to incorporate alternate queues and in-line gaming. Alternate queues include a queue for single riders or a “Fast Pass” queue to expedite a guest’s waiting process. Either option yields both shorter wait times and a more positive guest experience. In-line gaming is a recent phenomenon in which guests can interact with technology, games, and activities during the queueing period. This modern era of “waiting in line” has brought about some impressive advancements in technology that ultimately alleviate more than just in-the-moment boredom.

All in all, the psychology of queueing does play a role that affects an individual’s perception of their overall experience. Waiting DOES in fact leave a lasting effect on an a guest or customer. With clever innovations and technological headways, wait times will no longer be able to limit us.

For more information on how to shorten the wait time at your community’s guard gate, visit ZUUL Systems. ZUUL is a modern way to deal with the age-old hassle of entering a gated community. It’s an app that enhances existing guest registry and entry systems while minimizing guest wait times within a secured neighborhood. With ZUUL Systems, the psychology of queuing is a thing of the past.

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