We humans are strange creatures. Why do we feel the need to queue in line so early before our flights? And why do we stand up in the aisle as soon as the plane lands?

Well thanks to some solid research and some smarts, we don’t have to wonder anymore.

According to behaviour expert and author, Judi James, the need to queue – even when we know doing so won’t speed up the process – comes down to basic human emotions (including our propensity for anxiety) and our ego.

Let me explain.

In an article that appeared on MailOnline, James says that the first component of the human need to queue comes own to our herd mentality. Whenever we see other humans doing something, we feel the need to join them – such as when everyone on the plane gets up, grabs their luggage out of the overhead luggage compartment, and then just stands there, twiddling their thumbs whilst the doors are opened.

‘The psychology of queueing is contagious – anywhere we see a queue, we feel impelled to join.”

Judi James, behaviour expert, talking to MailOnline.


A big part of this herd mentality comes down to good old FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). It’s like when you see a long queue outside some shop or restaurant: surely there must be something awesome inside for people to form a queue, right?

But according to James, complimenting this fear of missing out is just basic anxiety, which James tells us is always part of the travelling experience – especially when flying.

She also points to research that indicates that standing in line gives us some purpose, and having a purpose helps to alleviate our anxiety. Interestingly, having a purpose even helps time go faster.

“When we have a purpose, time goes faster. This is why an hour can feel like three weeks if you’re bored, but an hour can also feel like five minutes when you have to get up in the morning,” says James.

To summarise, we stand up and queue early because doing so gives us some purpose and something to focus on, instead of letting our anxiety get the better of us and feeling worse for it. And it also makes time seem to pass quicker, which is always a great thing when at the airport and inside a cramped plane.

So the next time you see a group of people queuing up early, keep this in mind and have some compassion. It’s kind of wired into us to behave this way…

Are you one of those people who stands up well before you need to?