Have you ever felt your phone vibrating in your pocket – even when the phone is not there? Or perhaps you forgot to wear your fitness tracker one day, but still felt it going off on your wrist. What’s going on here?
Clinical psychologist Scott Bea, PsyD, says that these phantom phone vibrations are fairly common. In fact, 89 percent of the people in one study reported experiencing these phantom phone vibrations at one time or another.
Nearly 87 percent of those in the survey felt them weekly and 13 percent perceived phantom vibrations daily. Overall, most said the phantom vibrations were not bothersome.
Although there’s no hard evidence why we experience these fake phone calls, the phenomenon could be explained in a number of ways, Dr. Bea says.
One is that we anticipate those notifications so strongly that our minds sense something that’s not really there.
“Most of us are creatures of habit,” Dr. Bea says. “So we tend to carry our cell phones in the same spot. At the same time, in the back of our minds, many of us are constantly waiting for the next notification.”
When positive things happen at random intervals, we start to think about them a little more, hoping they will happen again.
“With that cell phone is going off intermittently, it gets us kind of anticipating and then feeling something that’s not there,” Dr. Bea says.
The study says that those people who scored higher in conscientiousness on a personality test experienced phantom vibrations less frequently.
People who talk on their cell phones a lot, or send more texts seem to experience the phenomenon more often. So, if you’re an extrovert, you may feel phantom rings because you’re calling, texting and tracking more people on social media.
At the same time, those who had strong reactions to text messages were more bothered by phantom vibrations. Anxious or insecure people may feel this type of phone vibration because they may worry about their social relationships more often and the communication related to them.
The good news is phantom vibrations are not a health risk. They probably amuse more people than they bother.
More amusing than bothersome
Dr. Bea says there are some things you can try to get phantom vibrations under control.
For one, you could simply turn off your device every once in a while. But if the prospect of going off the grid is too much to stomach, try switching the place where you carry your cell phone.
“You’ll be a little less attentive to one specific area and then you’ll probably be a little less likely to experience or misperceive the phantom vibration,” Dr. Bea says.
You also could take your phone off vibrate mode and use the audible ringer or change devices.