Why Do I Think My Phone Is Vibrating When It’s Not?

Do you ever feel your phone vibrating in your pocket or purse, only to retrieve it and be met by eerie, black-screened lifelessness? If, like most people, you occasionally experience these “phantom vibrations,” it turns out it’s because you’re a little bit nuts.

Or, scientifically speaking, you’re having “sensory hallucinations.”

So says Michael Rothberg, a researcher at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Mass., who, last year, studied the strange phenomenon among the doctors and other medical staff at Baystate. He discovered that over 70 percent of those polled had experienced a phantom vibration in the past — and some of them were spooked by ghost cellphone rings daily.

As Rothberg recently explained on ScienceLine, these hallucinations are, essentially, errors in perception — casualties of the brain’s struggle to make sense of the constant barrage of data flooding in from the outside world.

“You get a tremendous amount of sensory information that’s coming in from your eyes, from your ears, from your skin, and you can’t deal with all that information all the time,” Rothberg told Rose Eveleth, the host of ScienceLine’s podcast. [How Does Acid Make People Trip?]

“And so as you get these different types of sensory inputs coming in, and your brain is trying to filter them out and trying to make sense of them, it makes sense of them in terms of what it’s used to looking for,” he said. “So for people who are getting messages all the time — those messages are positive or they’re excited to get those messages or they’re important so they’re worried about missing those messages — they’re constantly searching for something that might seem like a message coming in.”

While hunting-and-gathering in prehistoric times, we would have been on the lookout for snakes, and were probably constantly getting spooked by curvy sticks. Today, most of us are techno-centric, and so our brains misinterpret everything from the rustle of clothing to the growling of a stomach, jumping to the false conclusion that we’re getting a call.

There’s no need to get freaked out by the fact that you, and roughly 70 percent of the people around you, hallucinate on a regular basis. “Hallucinations sound like mental illness, and this is not mental illness, this is a normal thing that pretty much everybody experiences,” Rothberg said.

Article provided by Life’s Little Mysteries, a sister site to Laptopmag.com.

Image provided by Shutterstock and wolfmaster13.

Email* (will not be published)
*Indicates required field
Submit Comments

  1. Yacko Says:

    For me it is the opposite. I always wonder why my lungs are filled with fluid, rumbling and gurgling like Aqualung, when it is the cell phone going off in my shirt pocket.

All Product Types Accessories Cars Digital Camcorders Digital Cameras eReaders GPS Laptops MP3 & Video Players Projectors Smartphones Software Storage Tablets / MIDs VoIP Wi-Fi
All Subcategories
All Subcategories All-Purpose Budget Business Desktop Replacement Gaming Multimedia Netbook Nettop Rugged Student Tablet PCs Ultraportable
Acer Alienware Apple Archos ASUS Averatec BenQ CTL Corp. Dell Digital Storm eMachines Emtec Everex Fujitsu GammaTech Gateway General Dynamics Getac Gigabyte Hercules HP HTC iBuyPower Intel Lenovo MSI Nokia Nvidia OCZ OLPC OQO Origin Panasonic Sager Samsung Sony Sylvania Systemax TabletKiosk Toshiba Verizon Viewsonic Viliv VooDoo Workhorse PC ZT Systems
Minimum Rating
Any Rating 4.5 Stars 4.0 Stars 3.5 Stars 3.0 Stars
Screen Size
10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 20 4 5 6 7 8 9
1024x576 1024x600 1024x768 1200X800 1280 x 720 1280x1024 1280x768 1280x800 1366x678 1366x768 1440x1050 1440x900 1600x768 1600x900 1680x1050 1680x945 1920x1080 1920x1200 800x400 800x480
Weight Range
10.1 - 12.0 pounds 12.1 - 14.0 pounds 14.1 - 16.0 pounds 2 lbs 2 pounds and under 2+ lbs 2.1 - 4.0 pounds 4.1 - 6.0 pounds 6.1 - 8.0 pounds 8.1 - 10.0 pounds Over 16 pounds Under 2 pounds
more options