Scientists discover the obvious

Here's a scientific conclusion that even a professional science denier would accept: Being stuck in line, on an airplane, in a waiting room, or anywhere else with someone loudly nattering inanities into their cell phone is somewhere between irritating and infuriating.

Here’s a scientific conclusion that even a professional science denier would accept: Being stuck in line, on an airplane, in a waiting room, or anywhere else with someone loudly nattering inanities into their cell phone is somewhere between irritating and infuriating.

You don’t really need a PhD in human psychology to come to this conclusion, but it turns out that quite a few scientists have been conducting research on the obvious, probing the whys behind the annoyance of cell phone chattering. A new study by San Diego University researchers concludes that two factors are at play here. One is simply the “trapped” response – you’re stuck in a place with this cackling conversation assaulting you, so your stress level quickly builds to a boil.

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The other is what scientists are calling the “halfalogue” factor. Unlike hearing two people carry on a conversation, we hear cell phoners yakking with someone who’s not there, so we’re getting only half of what’s being said. Psychologists say that this hijacks an innocent bystander’s brain, which can’t help but search for some logic in what it’s receiving. Thus, our grey cells involuntarily struggle to put the halfalogue into a dialogue, distracting us from our own thoughts or disrupting a simple moment of solitude.

Another study found that the brain perceives the one-sided conversation to be abnormally loud, even when it’s not. This drives us not only to distraction, but also to a simmering fury, ultimately chauffeuring us right up to the dark precipice of anti-social behavior.

As one who’s been brought to that edge several times, it seems to me that the people prattling on so rudely are the anti-social ones. I appreciate the recent scientific attention to this uncouth narcissism, but wouldn’t it be better to address it at the kindergarten level?

“Cellphone Talkers Proved To Be Irritants, Study Says,” The New York Times,” March 14, 2013.

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