The reason behind mobile phone 'phantom ringing syndrome'

Updated: 2012-09-12
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It's the 21st century phenomenon experienced by millions of people every day. 
You can feel your phone in your pocket ringing or buzzing away, but when you check there are no calls or texts. 

Now scientists believe they can explain the cause of so-called phantom ringing syndrome - and it might not just be in our heads after all. 

Buzzing: Scientists believe they can explain the reason behind so-called phantom ringing syndrome
Alex Blaszczynski, chairman of the School of Psychology at the University of Sydney, believes the sensation is actually triggered by electrical activity.

He told the Sydney Morning Herald: 'I expect it’s related to some of the electrical signals coming through in a transmission, touching on the surrounding nerves, giving a feeling of a vibration.' 
He explains the vibrations as being similar to the buzzing noise produced when when a phone is placed near near a speaker. 
Although Mr Blaszczynski hasn’t conducted any formal studies on the vibrations yet, if he is right then the feeling isn't a figment of our imaginations, but a real sensation. 
However Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University disagrees.

He believes that because people are often anticipating a call they often interpret unrelated stimuli, such as a chair leg dragging against the floor or trousers rubbing their leg as a phone call. 
And Michael Rothberg, a clinician investigator at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, Massachusetts, who conducted a survey on the vibrations, agrees that they may be caused by the misinterpretation of sensory signals in our brain. 
Rothberg's study found the phantom phone vibrations were experienced by 68 per cent of people surveyed, with 87 per cent feeling them weekly, and 13 per cent daily. 
He said: 'In order to deal with an overwhelming amount of sensory input the brain applies filters or schema based on what it expects to find, a process known as hypothesis guided search.'
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