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Who doesn’t hate to wait? Well meaning wait management strategies focus on moving the line along with the intent of reducing stress. The strategy may work well at Disney World, but may backfire when implemented in a hospital waiting room.

Elizabeth Gelfand Miller, Boston College; Barbara E. Kahn, University of Miami; and Mary Frances Luce, Duke University have published their research about waited-for events and stress in the Februrary, 2008, edition of Journal of Consumer Research.

In one of the researchers’ studies participants were asked to wait for either a ‘neutral’ or ‘negative’ event. When the participants were told the event they were waiting for was a neutral event their stress levels were lower when their wait time was short and time remaining announced.

When the participants were told that they were waiting for a negative event the shorter wait times and reminders of how long they would have to wait actually increased stress.

Surprisingly, the researchers found that longer wait times in a patient’s waiting room can facilitate coping with negative events, which may result in less stress.