Trivia

Hard

What Do Many Cellphone Users Experience?

Phantom Ringing
Ear Callousing
Texting-Related Injuries
Mobile Viruses
A man checking his phone after feeling like he missed a notification.
Otávio Nogueira/Flickr

Answer: Phantom Ringing

If you have a cellphone, there’s a good chance that you can relate to this topic pretty strongly: the perception that your phone is vibrating to notify you when it is actually not. Depending on the population surveyed and the amount they use their cellphones, the rate at which people frequently experience the sensation that their phone is signaling them when there is no incoming call or notification ranges from roughly 27 percent of the population to, in the case of undergraduate students, a full 90 percent of the population.

The principal culprit in both the ringing and vibratory hallucinations seems to be the hypervigilance of the human brain in detecting patterns in our environments. Because we know the sound/feel of our devices alerting us of something, our brains are primed to respond to any stimulus that sounds or feels remotely like the alerts on our phone. The experience is not unlike falsely hearing a car pull into the driveway when you’re waiting for a guest to arrive or thinking that you hear an approaching train or bus in the distance when waiting to commute to work.

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