Hugh Pickens writes writes: "With people spending an estimated 2.30 trillion minutes on their collective cell phones in the past year, it’s no wonder that you’ve probably been party to an unwanted conversation or two. You know one ones — the loud exchange in the checkout line over the previous night’s festivities, or the keep-in-the-bedroom sweet nothings that, inexplicably, just have to be expressed in a restaurant within earshot of nearby diners. Now Alexandra Sifferlin reports that researchers are studying why overhearing one-sided exchanges is more distracting than eavesdropping on a conversation between two people. Researchers recruited 164 undergraduate students to complete an assignment involving anagrams. While they were concentrating on the task, the scientists held a scripted conversation that the participants were meant to overhear. Half of the students overheard the only half of the conversation, as a researcher conducted it over the phone, while the other half heard both sides as it happened between two of the team members in an adjacent room. The results: Even though the conversation was irrelevant to the anagram task and contained less words and noise, one-sided conversations impacted participants’ self-reported distractibility and memory, thus showing people are more attentive to cell phone conversations than two-sided conversations. The researchers theorize that one-sided conversations are more annoying because hearing only one side of the conversation makes it more uncertain and unpredictable, so our brains are naturally drawn to filling out the missing parts, even if we aren’t consciously trying to eavesdrop. Study author Veronica Galván suggests that her findings could shed light on multi-tasking behaviors in general.. "“And that may have implications for open work settings, where people can’t help but overhear colleagues’ conversations, whether they are personal or work-related.""
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