Rosh Hashannah relativity

Daniel Hamermesh has an interesting Freakonomics post that Jews (and goys) can relate to.

My wife and I were speculating on how long last Friday’s Rosh Hashanah service would last. We both figured on two hours, but my wife said, “Services always last longer than you expect.”

He poses the question of rational expectations. Despite years and years of experience, Hamermesh (and myself, actually) are really bad at predicting when services will end, even though the prayers are always the same.

So what gives?

Possibly, if you think services are boring, your mindset can affect your expectations about how long services will last (in which direction would depend upon the type of person you are).  Maybe we just have poor memories for this sort of thing.

Personally, I think a large part is variability within the service. At my synagogue, the first day of Rosh Hashannah services lasted a half and hour longer than they did on the second day. The rabbi was in a rush the second day and let the first day drag out. They also started late, but since they started before I got there in both cases, all I observed was the end result.

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