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The phantom vibrations

The phantom vibrations

Rome – A curious psychophysical manifestation, difficult to define, is re-emerging from the United States and, subsequently, elsewhere as well. According to several people, the feeling is that of feel your pocket vibrate as if inside there was a mobile phone or PDA that is ringing with the vibracall activated, only to discover that the pocket in question is disconsolately empty and the cell phone is on the table, in the briefcase, everywhere except in your pocket.

The phenomenon has begun to have a certain importance: the Associated Press talks about it in this article, written with ironic and downplaying tones. A quick search highlights how, in the myriad of personal blogs and minor sites, the phenomenon is anything but ignored.

A few months ago he also dealt with it USA Today jokingly titling the article Good vibes? Bad? None? . Having overcome the “invitation to read” effect caused by the title, the newspaper tries to give exhaustive and reliable answers. “Psychologically, the key to understanding phantom vibrations is so-called hypothesis-driven research, a theory that describes the selective monitoring of physical sensation,” says Jeffrey Janata, director of the Behavioral Medicine Department at University Hospitals in Cleveland (Ohio, USA). USA). This indicates that when cellphone users are accustomed to vibrations, they can experience false alarms. “In practice, with this scheme we activate ourselves to be attentive to any sensation that identifies a vibrating mobile phone”, Janata continues, “and this leads to overestimating sensations that have nothing to do with a vibration and to attribute to them the idea that there is an incoming call ”.

Keep on USA Today quoting Alejandro Lleras, a professor specialized in the study of sensations and perceptions at the University of Illinois (USA). The professor adds that learning to detect rings and vibrations is part of a learning process of perceptions. “When we learn to answer the cell phone, we actually set up a series of perceptual filters such as to allow us to identify the signal in any condition, even in the presence of loud noises ”, says the professor.
“As soon as that filter is created, it isn’t perfect and false alarms may occur . For example, random noise can be interpreted as an authentic signal when instead it is not “.

Another explanation from Janata makes it clear that when the brains of regular cellphone users get used to the sensations that come with them, such as perceiving vibrations, the brain somehow becomes inextricably linked with such feelings . “The neuronal connections used to form the feedback to the sensation of vibration they are easy to activate “Says Janata. “They are very consolidated as they are similar to others already present in mental schemes. They become a habit of the brain “.

The newspaper also wanted to hear the opinion of someone on the commercial side, that is, cell phone operators.

A first spokesperson reported that they are not complaints about the phenomenon; according to Mark Siegel of AT&T (one of the major mobile phone operators in the United States), “maybe it only happens in the user’s mind”. Instead Rob Whitehouse, communications vice president of University Hospitals, insists that the phantom vibrations, which he himself experiences every day, they are simply proof of how important it is to be constantly in communication . “It’s a psychological expression of my need to always be connected. It’s like when e-mail was invented: we were checking our inboxes all the time, because receiving a new message was really exciting, ”she concluded.

If you use the search engines in English, there are many other indications on the phenomenon on the net. Much less has been discussed in Italy: in addition to very few others, the Psicocafe Blog is an exception, which with diligence and technicality first detected the phenomenon in this post and then discussed it once again in this following one, referring to the coined Anglo-Saxon neologisms. for the occasion: ringxiety (from ring + anxiety ) And vibranxiety (from vibration + anxiety ). The reader is free to guess what the two neologisms have in common: once guessed, he will probably know what to watch out for.