Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Overheard cell-phone conversations are not only annoying but reduce our attention

Date:
September 21, 2010
Source:
Association for Psychological Science
Summary:
"Yeah, I'm on my way home." "That's funny." "Uh-huh." "What? No! I thought you were -- " "Oh, OK." Listening to someone talk on a cell phone is very annoying. A new study finds out why: hearing just one side of a conversation is much more distracting than hearing both sides and reduces our attention in other tasks.

"Yeah, I'm on my way home." "That's funny." "Uh-huh." "What? No! I thought you were -- " "Oh, ok." Listening to someone talk on a cell phone is very annoying. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds out why: Hearing just one side of a conversation is much more distracting than hearing both sides and reduces our attention in other tasks.

Related Articles


Lauren Emberson, a psychology Ph.D. candidate at Cornell University, came up with the idea for the study when she was taking the bus as an undergraduate student at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. "I was commuting for 45 minutes by bus every day and I really felt like I couldn't do anything else when someone was on a cell phone," she says. "I couldn't read. I couldn't even listen to my music. I was just so distracted, and I started to wonder about why that could be."

For the experiment, Emberson recorded two pairs of female college roommates as they had a cell phone conversation. She recorded each conversation both as a dialogue, in which both women could be heard by a listener, and as a "halfalogue" in which only one side of the conversation could be heard, the same as overhearing a cell-phone conversation. She also recorded each woman recapping the conversation in a monologue. Then she played the recordings at volunteers as they did various tasks on the computer that require attention, such as tracking a moving dot using a computer mouse.

Sure enough, volunteers were much worse at the concentration tasks when they could only hear half of the conversation. Emberson thinks this is because our brains more or less ignore predictable things, while paying more attention to things that are unpredictable. When both sides of the conversation are audible, it flows predictably, but a cell phone conversation is quite unpredictable. Emberson conducted the study with Gary Lupyan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Michael Goldstein of Cornell University, and Michael Spivey of the University of California-Merced.

"It's definitely changed my own etiquette," says Emberson. "I'm a lot more sensitive about talking on the phone in public. It has a really profound effect on the cognition of the people around you, and it's not because they're eavesdropping or they're bad people. Their cognitive mechanism basically means that they're forced to listen."

The article, "Overheard Cell-Phone Conversations: When Less Speech Is More Distracting" was recently published in the journal Psychological Science.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Association for Psychological Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Association for Psychological Science. "Overheard cell-phone conversations are not only annoying but reduce our attention." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 21 September 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100921101344.htm>.
Association for Psychological Science. (2010, September 21). Overheard cell-phone conversations are not only annoying but reduce our attention. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100921101344.htm
Association for Psychological Science. "Overheard cell-phone conversations are not only annoying but reduce our attention." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/09/100921101344.htm (accessed November 26, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Are Female Bosses More Likely To Be Depressed?

Newsy (Nov. 24, 2014) A new study links greater authority with increased depressive symptoms among women in the workplace. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Winter Can Cause Depression — Here's How To Combat It

Newsy (Nov. 23, 2014) Millions of American suffer from seasonal depression every year. It can lead to adverse health effects, but there are ways to ease symptoms. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Could Your Genes Be The Reason You're Single?

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers in Beijing discovered a gene called 5-HTA1, and carriers are reportedly 20 percent more likely to be single. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Milestone Birthdays Can Bring Existential Crisis, Study Says

Newsy (Nov. 21, 2014) Researchers find that as people approach new decades in their lives they make bigger life decisions. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins