Apologies if this is a poor question for the site and feel free to close it if it's too vague or not appropriate for this site: I've heard commentators (IMs/GMs) on chess tournaments (from the Opera Euro Rapid to PogChamps 3) suggest that retreating moves (such as backwards knight/bishop moves) are unintuitive, and I've felt this way while doing certain puzzles as it takes me a long time to find the retreating move after a successful first few moves, but I'm curious as to why this is the case? Is it human psychology, or does it have something to do with fundamental principles/piece development? Unfortunately, I don't have a specific board state/game scenario to display but any answers would be appreciated :)
I think it's human psychology; we associate forward moves with attack and backward moves with defense. After all, chess originated as an abstract model for a real war.
That said, retreating moves don't need to be unintuitive, as long as we're on the defense. I don't have a specific situation in mind either, but retreating a queen or rook to help defending your king from a mating attack feels familiar.
I've felt this way while doing certain puzzles as it takes me a long time to find the retreating move
That's a good observation: in puzzles, you are almost always on the offense. It's always 'White/Black to move and win material', 'White/Black gives mate in x moves'. In rare cases, it's 'White/Black to move and draw' but even then it's often finding an offensive combination to equalize or force a draw by repetition or stalemate.