I wonder if the scientists splitting subatomic particles and trying to cure cancer laugh at these guys… some scientists at Cornell University have completed a study on why overhearing cell phone conversations is annoying.
Their conclusion is that 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.
“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.
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.”
I don’t think that the structure of the call is the problem. The research assumes that I’m trying to eavesdrop or that I give crap about what some knit-wit is talking about. What makes people on cell phones in public annoying are two factors: voice tone and subject matter.
If the caller is speaking normally, then I don’t notice. If they shouting so that everyone in a ten block radius can hear them, I notice. If someone has a voice like Joe Lieberman, Wendy Williams, or Miss Bunny Swan its hard to tune them out. The whining and pitch just seem to hit on that auditory nerve, that makes me personally want to scream and shove the phone down their throats.
Secondly, what are they actually talking about. If they are calling a friend or loved one to see what’s up. That’s fine. Keep it G rated. Its when the call veers into their medical history, their sad sordid love/sex life, or an unending conversation about their kids– that’s when its annoying. I don’t know what about their seemingly insurmountable existential crisis can’t wait until they get to the privacy of their own home or car.
Why am I exposed to tales of STDs at the bus stop? Or how much some mom wants to spank her kids while I’m trying judge the quality of grapefruit at the supermarket. I think my favorite call is the validation call. You know you’ve heard it. Sixty-five percent of the time its woman, when its not it a teenage boy in need of Proactiv. The call starts innocently enough, but then they get sullen and they launch into: “Why can’t I, ______?” “Why won’t she _____?” “Am I really such a _______?”
The answers to any question in that conversation is yes. You are bitch, you are a douchebag, you are a doormat, you are an idiot. I’m only thinking these thoughts because you won’t shut up and I can hear your inane prattling over the roar of this commuter train and my noise canceling headphones. Why not just text the person unfortunate enough to be on the other end of the line? It would make the rest of us happier.