Thursday, May 27, 2010

Why Do Cell Phone Conversations Annoy Us Sometimes? Scientists Might Know the Answer…

annoying cell phone conversationsSo scientists think that they have now discovered why you might get completely annoyed when you overhear someone’s cell phone conversation. Scientists from Cornell University say that it takes more concentration and attention to listen to half of a conversation instead of just overhearing two people talking.

Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that is set to be published in the Psychological Science magazine, says, “We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue…Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can't tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated.”

It was recorded this year that the amount of minutes that Americans spend talking on their cell phones has increased over ninefold since 2000. Last year Americans spent over 2.3 trillion minutes talking on their cell phones.

According to the U.N. agency, the International Telecommunications Union, there are over 4.6 billion cell phone subscribers throughout the world. This is equivalent to about two-thirds of the world’s population. This means that there are very few corners of the world that aren’t plagued by the chatter of cell phone users.

China and India lead the polls in terms of the number of cell phone users that they have. China has 634 million users, India has 545 million, and the United States has 270 million.

Emberson says that the reason that people get so annoyed with cell phone conversations is because they try to make sense of little snippets of the conversation and then predict what the speaker will most likely say next. She states, "When you hear half of a conversation, you get less information and you can't predict as well…it requires more attention."

All of the information that Emberson and her co-author and fellow researcher Michael Goldstein collected was based off of a study that they conducted with 41 college students. They had them perform different concentration exercises while hearing either one or both parties who were having a conversation on their cell phone.

After the experiment was conducted, it was concluded that students made more errors when they only heard one side of a conversation. Emberson says that this shows how overhearing a cell phone conversation can cause disruption to our every day tasks and, that includes driving. She states, "These results suggest that a driver's attention can be impaired by a passenger's cell phone conversation."

I felt that this study that was conducted was extremely interesting. Now I have a better understanding of why I get annoyed when people around me are on their cell phones sometimes. When I really think about it, it is because I’m trying to guess what the person on the other end of the conversation is saying, and I’m attempting to predict what the speaker will say next. The only thing that the study didn’t come up with was a solution to tune the halfalogue out. So I guess for now we will all have to continue to be annoyed by cell phone conversation and do our best not to be too annoyed.

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