Friday, May 21, 2010

Cell Phone Conversatons Annoy: Now We Know Why

"Science Explains Why Cell Phone Conversations Annoy"
FOXNews (May 21, 2010)

"Whether it is the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.

" 'We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue,' said Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

" 'Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can't tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated,' she said in an interview...."

Okay: So halfalogues are more more distracting - and therefore more irritating. Why are they more distracting? A few paragraphs down, there's this:

"...Emberson said people try to make sense of snippets of conversation and predict what speakers will say next.

" 'When you hear half of a conversation, you get less information and you can't predict as well,' she said. 'It requires more attention.'..."

Works for me.

The study suggests that a passenger using a cell phone can distract the driver - and suggest more studies. In driving simulators.

I think that'd be a good idea. I don't, as a rule, think that what America needs is more regulations: but the driving-while-talking thing does seem to need addressing. I've seen too many folks whoosh past my windshield, cheerfully chatting through their cell phones: and the town I live in is home to about 4,000 people. I don't like to think about the close calls an urbanite would experience.

Irritating? Maybe, Maybe Not

I've felt irritated, sometimes, when someone has a cell phone conversation when I'm in earshot. But that's when I'm trying to pay close attention to something else, like music. Sometimes the halfalogue is more intriguing than irritating: something cell phone users might want to remember.

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