Many cellphone users are reporting that they often feel their cellphone vibrating, when it's not vibrating at all. The phenomenon is being called Phantom Vibration Syndrome
(an allusion, I assume, to Phantom Limb Syndrome
, in which amputees feel sensations in their missing limbs).
Psychologists attribute these phantom vibrations to cellphone users' brains becoming over-alert to the sensation of vibration, and therefore experiencing false alarms:
Alejandro Lleras, a sensation and perception professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, adds that learning to detect rings and vibrations is part of a perceptual learning process. "When we learn to respond to a cellphone, we're setting perceptual filters so that we can pick out that (ring or vibration), even under noisy conditions," Lleras says. "As the filter is created, it is imperfect, and false alarms will occur. Random noise is interpreted as a real signal, when in fact, it isn't." Phantom cellphone vibrations also can be explained by neuroplasticity — the brain's ability to form new connections in response to changes in the environment. When cellphone users regularly experience sensations, such as vibrating, their brains become wired to those sensations, Janata says. "Neurological connections that have been used or formed by the sensation of vibrating are easily activated," he says. "They're over-solidified, and similar sensations are incorporated into that template. They become a habit of the brain."
I'm one of the last remaining people on the Planet Earth not to have a cellphone, so thankfully I'm immune to this syndrome.