Waiting experience in railway environments

M. van Hagen, Mirjam Galetzka, Adriaan T.H. Pruyn

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At railway stations, waiting time is usually an unavoidable aspect of the journey for train passengers. According to the attentional model of time, pleasant surroundings and other forms of distraction reduce perceived waiting time. Not every individual reacts identically in the same surroundings. Passengers in different states of mind enter the station every day. The authors propose that for recreational “lust” passengers, a stimulating environment initiates a more positive waiting time experience, whereas goal oriented “must” passengers respond more positively to a calming environment. A virtual railway station was developed to create a waiting environment in which the arousal level of environmental stimuli (stimulating or calming) was manipulated by the use of colored lighting (study 1) and background music (study 2) in an environment that varied in the degree of density. Results showed that at quiet low-density moments, passengers experienced greater pleasure when stimulating music was played, whereas at busy high-density moments it was the other way around (greater pleasure with calming music). Overall, “lust” passengers seemed more receptive to stimulating environments than “must” passengers. Pleasure increased and the waiting experience improved (with shorter time estimates). In line with reversal theory, the findings shed light on the relationship between environmental stimuli and waiting experience, including the differentiation between low- and high-density surroundings and motivational states of passengers. Designers of waiting environments might choose to design an environment that reverses negative emotions of boredom or stress to positive emotions of excitement and relaxation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)41-55
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of motivation, emotion, and personality
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • METIS-307621
  • IR-93450


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