Ever thought your phone was buzzing in your pocket and take it out only to realize no one was calling? Mental Floss assures you that you're not the only one suffering this private humiliation:
I don’t suffer these mysterious vibrations alone. In one study into the phenomenon – variously dubbed “phantom ringing,” “phantom vibration syndrome” and vibranxiety – phantom phone vibrations were experienced by 68% of the people surveyed, with 87% of those feeling them weekly, and 13% daily.
Even more relieving is that you may not be making it up. Your phone might actually be vibrating:
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 theSydney 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.
Another scientist also posits that you really are feeling something, it's just that your brain re-interprets stray sensations into more plausible possibilities:
“In order to deal with an overwhelming amount of sensory input,” Rothberg and his team say in their study, “the brain applies filters or schema based on what it expects to find, a process known as hypothesis guided search.” With the phantom vibrations, the brain sometimes misinterprets sensory input according to the preconceived hypothesis that a vibrating sensation will be coming from the phone. In other words, it seems smartphone users are just so primed for, and attentive to, the sensation of their phone going off that they simply experience the occasional false alarm.