Distance is measured in travel time

People tend to remember and express distances in how long it takes to get there, rather than absolute units of distance.

We are particularly likely to introduce biases and be incorrect when we use non-spatial data to reason about spatial knowledge. One significant non-spatial factor is travel time. Travel time heavily influences our memory for spatial locations, and introduces bias.

In the real world, people tend to think of places as an hour’s drive or twenty minutes’ walk away more easily than they come up with the number of kilometers.

In the digital world, we pay more attention to the effort of traversing the space than how much space we actually moved through. Four clear and easy clicks feel shorter than three confusing ones.


Golledge, Reginald G. “The Nature of Geographic Knowledge.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, vol. 92, no. 1, 2002, pp. 1–14. Wiley Online Library, https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8306.00276.

We’re likely to assume places that are difficult or time-consuming to get to are very far away. p 8