Thursday, June 14, 2007

Ever Felt the "Fake Vibration"?

Do you put your mobile phone on your pocket, and sometimes you feel that it vibrated, but when you pick it up there really wasn't any call or message?

I thought I was the only person who felt it. And I thought it was just some vibration introduced by my pants.

But apparently, many other people thought they were the only one as well. A recent news article in USA Today highlighted this interesting issue and provided an explanation:

Some who experienced recurring phantom vibrations wondered whether the phenomenon had physical roots: Was it caused by nerve damage or muscle memory?

But experts say the false alarms simply demonstrate how easily habits are developed.

Psychologically, the key to deciphering phantom vibrations is "hypothesis-guided search," a theory that describes the selective monitoring of physical sensations, says Jeffrey Janata, director of the behavioral medicine program at University Hospitals in Cleveland. It suggests that when cellphone users are alert to vibrations, they are likely to experience sporadic false alarms, he says.

"You come armed with this template that leads you to be attentive to sensations that represent a cellphone vibrating," Janata says. "And it leads you to over-incorporate non-vibratory sensations and attribute them to the idea that you're receiving a phone call."

Alejandro Lleras, a sensation and perception professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adds that learning to detect rings and vibrations is part of a perceptual learning process.

"When we learn to respond to a cellphone, we're setting perceptual filters so that we can pick out that (ring or vibration), even under noisy conditions," Lleras says. "As the filter is created, it is imperfect, and false alarms will occur. Random noise is interpreted as a real signal, when in fact, it isn't."

Phantom cellphone vibrations also can be explained by neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to form new connections in response to changes in the environment.

When cellphone users regularly experience sensations, such as vibrating, their brains become wired to those sensations, Janata says.

"Neurological connections that have been used or formed by the sensation of vibrating are easily activated," he says. "They're over-solidified, and similar sensations are incorporated into that template. They become a habit of the brain."
A whole new dimension has just been added to the adage "it's all in your mind". Allow me to end this post with my first haiku:
A phone vibration
Hurriedly I picked it up
Alas there's nothing.


day-dreamer said...

Hey! This is such an informative post, thanks for sharing.

Yeah well, I used to feel vibration in classes too, but pulled my handphone outta my pockets to find that it's a "false alarm". :D

jasmine said...

I experience them too. Cool! And cool haiku! =P

King Ung said...

it's so dangerous, a dangerous habit that we pick up unintentionally... false alarm. >.<

sophisticatedsoul said...

It happens most when I am expecting messages or calls.

youngyew said...

Glad that you guys liked the post. :)