A “halfalogue” is much worse than a dialogue. People who want to use cell phones to talk need the equivalent of a smoker's area. Far better that they do texting or emailing.
“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.
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.”
I always watch for research on how cell phone one-side conversations distract people around a cell phone talker because I find it so true. Hearing one side of a conversation is very distracting, far more so than hearing the whole conversation.
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.
The unpredictability of hearing only one side of a conversation taxes mental resources more heavily and makes it harder to filter out the conversation.
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.
So look, people carrying on cell phone conversations on buses, in airplanes before take-off and after landing (oh I hate that - better to just message), and in restaurants are stressing the brains of the people around them, ruining their peace of mind, cutting back on their already limited amount of time needed for mental rest and rejuvenation. Worse yet are the people who do not turn off their cell phones in theaters and at classical music concerts and operas.
Another pet peeve: Locking A Car With A Short Horn Blast Is Rude And Obnoxious.
|Share |||Randall Parker, 2010 September 21 08:40 PM Comm Tech Society|