Phantom vibration syndrome is when it feels like your phone is vibrating in your pocket…
…but actually there’s no incoming call, text message or other alert.
It’s a hallucination that 90% of people with mobile phones say has happened to them.
Dr Robert Rosenberg, author of a new study on the modern phenomenon, said the hallucination is easily produced:
“[The] phone sifts around in your pocket, “I’m getting a call.”
Your pant leg rustles, “I’m getting a text.”
You have a muscle spasm in your leg, “I’m getting another call again.”
But the whole time, just a phantom vibration.”
Phantom vibration syndrome was first identified in the era of pagers.
The hallucination could be down to a kind of bodily habit, Dr Rosenberg said:
“Think about wearing a pair of glasses.
If you’re accustomed to your glasses and they almost become a part of you, you can forget that you’re even wearing them sometimes.
The phone in your pocket is like this.
Through bodily habit, your phone actually becomes a part of you and you become trained to perceive the phone’s vibrations as an incoming call or text.
So, due to these kinds of habits, it becomes really easy to misperceive other similar sensations.”
There is no reason to be concerned by the hallucination but if it’s irritating there could be a way to reduce its effect.
Dr Rosenberg suggests moving the phone around to different pockets.
This should help stop the bad habit forming — or at least slow it down.
Watch the accompanying video from Georgia Tech:
The study was published in the journal Computers In Human Behavior (Rosenberg, 2015).
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
Puffing man image from Shutterstock