Presh Talwalker tells us about this study of parking strategies:
They observed two distinct strategies: “cycling” and “pick a row, closest space.” They compared the results. “What was interesting,” [Professor Andrew Velkey found], “was although the individual cycling were spending more time driving looking for a parking space, on average they were no closer to the door, time-wise or distance-wise, than people using ‘pick a row, closest space.’”
And commenters are inferring that hunting for the best spot is a sub-optimal strategy. But those that are searching for the best parking spot are not interested in reducing their expected parking time, rather they care about the second moment. When we have an appointment there is a deadline effect: our payoff drops precipitously if we arrive past the deadline. Faced with such a payoff function we are typically wiling to increase our expected parking time if in return we can at least increase the probability of getting lucky with a really good spot. ”Pick a row, closest space” guarantees we will be a bit late. ”Cycling” may increase the average searching time but at least gives us a chance of being on time.