Phantom cell phone vibrations are real, kinda

I text when I drive. I hate to admit it because of the scary number of recent deaths but something about feeling that vibration or hearing the alert for a text message makes my curiosity meter go bonkers when my cell phone is right in my grasp. I feel stupid enough when I barely avoid a head on collision to read a text from a friend calling me a jackass but that embarrassment is even worse when there’s not even anything there. Then, the embarrassment combines with a worry that I’m losing my mind because I KNOW I JUST FELT SOMETHING.

A recent study from the Division of General Medicine in Massachusetts confirmed that anyone who has felt their phone vibrate then checked it to see nothing new isn’t a crazy person. It’s really happening, even if there’s not a new text to read.

Of the 169 participants who answered the question, 115 (68%, 95% confidence interval 61% to 75%) reported having experienced phantom vibrations.

From Mental Floss:

Alex Blaszczynski, chairman of the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney, thinks the vibrating sensation is triggered by electrical activity. “I expect it’s related to some of the electrical signals coming through in a transmission, touching on the surrounding nerves, giving a feeling of a vibration,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald, with the caveat that he hasn’t conducted any studies on the vibrations. If he’s right, it would mean vibes are not phantom, but a real sensation – a physical stimulation similar to what happens when your phone is near a speaker and you hear that weird buzzing sound as it does a “hand shake” with a cell tower and gives off some electromagnetic interference.”

There are other ideas for what causes the phantom vibration, though. One popular theory is the anticipation we all go through when expecting a call or text. When pants rub against our legs in an odd way that sensation isn’t too different from receiving a text telling you what to pick up on the way home. The study also mentions the best way to end the phantom vibrations is to use the ringer instead of vibrate (75% success rate), changing the location of the phone on your body (63%), or totally different device (50%, but who’s going to do that?).

At least now when I wreck my ’92 Buick because I thought I felt a text come in I’ll know why.


Old people really do smell different

Giant squid found off the coast of Australia

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