Study shows majority of people experience "phantom vibration syndrome"

Jul 13, 2012 15:54:47Posted by John Skorick, MyAKA Founder & CEO

Study shows majority of people experience

Many cell phone owners have adapted certain behaviors without realizing it - everything from checking to make sure their device is nearby to locking it to ensure mobile privacy. A recent study conducted by researchers from Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne discovered many mobile device owners also feel their phone vibrate even if it hasn't done so. This experience has been coined "phantom vibration syndrome."

The researchers asked 290 undergraduate students if they ever thought their phone was buzzing when it was not, and 89 percent said it has happened to them at least once. On average, this nonexistent buzzing happened about once every two weeks, while some said they encountered the phenomenon daily.

The scientists wanted to find out if the sensation was a misinterpretation of sensory input, a form of social contagion or a hallucination.

Even though there was some uncertainty with the findings, the researchers did find connections between how often a person experienced this sensation and various personality traits. Those who were extroverts experienced the syndrome a great deal, and the investigators believe this happens because keeping in touch with friends is a big part of their lives. The other personality trait connected to phantom vibration syndrome was neurotics, as people with neurotic tendencies tend to worry a great deal about the status of their relationships. In addition, those who react emotionally to texts or are constantly on their phone were also more likely to experience the sensation.

However, these sensations can be stopped. Students who were asked to concentrate on the syndrome reported experiencing fewer phantom vibrations.

According to The Atlantic, scientists haven't classified this as an actual disease, and the majority of those who feel the vibrations aren't bothered by it. In fact, 91 percent reported the vibrations bothered them very little or not at all. The study authors associate the feeling with a person thinking their name is being called when it is not. They described this as a "brain hiccup" in which an individual does not correctly interpret a sensation.

"Presumably, if individuals considered these imagined vibrations 'pathological tactile hallucinations,' they would feel bothered that they had them. Instead, it is likely that individuals consider these phantom vibrations a normal part of the human-mobile phone interactive experience," the authors wrote.