Veronica Galván and colleagues from the University of San Diego published new research in the March 13, 2013, issue of the open access peer reviewed journal Public Library of Science that examined why overhearing one-sided cell phone conversations is annoying to the majority of people.
The researchers set up a series of tests that allowed 164 people between the ages of 18 and 22 that represented all races and demographics in the United States to be exposed to a one-sided phone conversation and to hear both sides of the same conversation while the participants were attempting to solve an anagram puzzle. Participants were unaware that the conversation was part of the study.
The participants found the one-sided conversation to be more distracting and annoying than the two-sided conversation. Women were found to be 25 percent more distracted from solving the anagram than men by one-sided phone use All groups in the study were able to remember more of the two-sided conversation than the one-sided conversation.
This is the first study to use a realistic situation to show that overhearing a cell phone conversation is a uniquely intrusive and memorable event.
The study demonstrates that the intrusive nature of indiscriminate use of a cell phone in any situation is distracting to the completion of any task.
Interestingly, the entire group of participants were young people who are the demographic that are most familiar with cell phones. Older people have been complaining about the intrusive nature of cell phone use for years.
Citation: Galva´n VV, Vessal RS, Golley MT (2013) The Effects of Cell Phone Conversations on the Attention and Memory of Bystanders. PLoS ONE 8(3): e58579.