Navigation Links
Other People's Cell Phone Conversations Really Are Annoying

The brain finds hearing half a conversation more distracting, study shows

FRIDAY, May 21 (HealthDay News) -- If you've ever wanted to shout "shut up!" while listening to someone else's cell phone conversation in an elevator, train or restaurant, new research reveals why.

Overhearing one-sided conversations really is more annoying because the brain finds it more taxing, and therefore more distracting, to listen to only half of a conversation versus the whole thing.

"It's unbelievably irritating to overhear someone on a cell phone," said lead study author Lauren Emberson, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. "It's harder to tune out, you can't pull your attention away from it and you're more distracted by it.

Emberson and her colleagues did a series of experiments in which college students were asked to do certain tasks that required their full attention while listening to recordings of female college students having a conversation about a current event or other topic. The students were told to ignore the recording as best they could.

In one task, students had to follow a moving dot on a computer screen with a mouse. In another task, they had to remember a series of four letters and were told to press a button each time one flashed on a screen and not to press the button when other letters flashed.

Students first did the tasks in a silent room to determine their baseline proficiency.

When researchers had them do the same tasks while listening to a dialogue, they did just as well as they did in the silent room. They also did well when listening to a monologue, or one person recounting an earlier conversation.

But when researchers played only one side of the dialogue -- similar to overheard cell phone chatter -- the number of errors students made on the attention tasks spiked.

The research will appear in a upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science.

In some respects, the findings are curious, Emberson said, because when overhearing half a conversation you're actually hearing less sound than you'd hear while listening to a full conversation.

But much of how humans process language is based on the brain's ability to predict, or anticipate, what comes next in a sentence, Emberson said. The brain is attuned to patterns of speech, acoustics and grammar, so when someone says, "I like to eat", the brain is already figuring out that what comes next is probably going to be some type of food.

One-sided conversations make it more difficult for the brain to make these predictions, so listening is more distracting, she said.

"With half a conversation we get less information, so we have to listen more," Emberson said.

It's not just in speech that humans count on being able to predict what's going to happen next, said Gerry Altmann, a professor of psychology at the University of York in England.

"There is increasing research in a whole range of areas to do with human behavior that shows our ability to predict what's going to come next is fundamental to both our mental and physical functioning," Altmann said. "Much of the behavior we engage in is, in fact, very predictable."

Altman likened hearing half a phone conversation to the difference between walking on a smooth sidewalk to an uneven, rock-strewn path. One doesn't require much attention. The other, which is unpredictable, requires more attention. An overheard cell phone conversation is different in that much of the process is subconscious, he added.

"With half a phone conversation, you're only getting a snapshot, so you can't predict the future, which is what the brain has evolved to do," Altmann said.

And with some 285 million cell phone subscribers in the United States, it's an irritation that isn't likely to go away.

More information

The National Science Foundation has more on how the brain processes language.

SOURCES: Lauren Emberson, doctoral student, department of psychology, Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y.; Gerry Altmann, Ph.D, professor of psychology, University of York, York, England; Psychological Science

Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved

Related medicine news :

1. Striking Down Medical Liability Reforms Another Blow to Illinois Poor Lawsuit Climate
2. Methadone and Other Opioids Not Always Equivalent, Conversion Can Be Lethal
3. American Red Cross and Other U.S. Blood Centers Send Blood to Haiti
4. Luckey & Mullins Joins with Other National Construction Defect Law Firms to Form Chinese Drywall Legal Network
5. Spanish-Speaking Mothers Less Likely to Turn on TV
6. No Surprise to David Perecman And Other Personal Injury Attorneys, Vehicles Lead All Causes of Injury at New York Hospital
7. DR Vitamins, LLC Introduces Vision Clarity Carnosine Eye Drops to Treat Cataracts, Glaucoma, Dry Eye, or Other Eye Ailments
8. Assisted Senior Living Releases New Tool For Finding Assisted Living Facilities And Other Senior Care
9. Remuda Ranch, Programs for Eating and Anxiety Disorders, and MASK (Mothers Awareness on School-Age Kids), Partner to Help Educate Parents, Teachers and Students About Eating Disorders
10. The International Association of Pediatricians & Leading Physicians of the World Helps New Mothers Find Top Pediatricians in Their Area
11. Got Another Minute to Talk Health Care? You Can Win $5,000!
Post Your Comments:
(Date:6/27/2016)... ... , ... TherapySites, the leading website and online ... Counseling Association. This new relationship allows TherapySites to continue to extend their ... benefits and promotional offers. , "TCA is extremely excited about this new partnership, ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... , ... June 27, 2016 , ... Quality metrics are ... in many ways they remain in the eye of the beholder, according to experts ... publication of The American Journal of Managed Care. For the full issue, click ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... June 26, 2016 , ... Brent Kasmer, a legally blind and certified personal trainer is helping ... fitness app. The fitness app plans to fix the two major problems leading the fitness ... size fits all type program , They don’t eliminate all the reasons people ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... ... , ... The temporary closing of Bruton Memorial Library on June 21 due to a possible ... often overlooked aspect of head lice: the parasite’s ability to live away from a human ... but a necessary one in the event that lice have simply gotten out of control. ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... , ... June 25, 2016 , ... ... and non-athletes recover from injury. Recently, he has implemented orthobiologic procedures as a ... area —Johnson is one of the first doctors to perform the treatment. Orthobiologics ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/24/2016)... OAKLAND, N.J. , June 24, 2016 /PRNewswire/ ... in the design, development and manufacturing of collagen ... and regeneration announced today that Bill Messer ... Sales and Marketing to further leverage the growing ... surgery medical devices. Bill joins the ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Dublin - ... " Global Markets for Spectroscopy Equipment" report ... This report focuses on the global market of ... applications in various applications. The report deals with spectroscopy ... industries: pharmaceutical and biotechnology, food and beverage, and environmental ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Dehaier Medical Systems Ltd. (NASDAQ: DHRM ) ... medical devices and wearable sleep respiratory products in ... with Hongyuan Supply Chain Management Co., Ltd. (hereinafter referred ... to develop Dehaier,s new Internet medical technology business. ... Hongyuan Supply Chain,s sales platform to reach Dehaier,s dealers ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: