Cell Phone Phantoms Haunt Addicted Users Cell phone addicts and BlackBerry junkies say they feel a telltale vibration on their hipbones when they're not wearing the device, or they hear their cell phone ringing even if they have left it at home.

Cell Phone Phantoms Haunt Addicted Users

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

Back now with DAY TO DAY.

Has this ever happened to you? You're in your car. You're listening to music on the radio, let's say. And suddenly you are sure you hear your cell phone ring, but you look around, you rummage around in your car, and only to find no missed calls on that cell phone.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

Or how about this? The buzz of your BlackBerry in your pocket and then you remember, whoops, I left it at home today. So are you crazy? Maybe. But the good news is, lots of other people are too.

Here's NPR's Alex Cohen.

ALEX COHEN: The experience of phantom rings has become so common, it's even been named: ringxiety.

Mr. DAVID LARAMIE (California School of Professional Psychology): One place that it has happened for me is standing in front of the sink, shaving.

David Laramie of Los Angeles wrote his doctoral dissertation on the effects of cell phones on human behavior. He found that two-third of those he surveyed had experienced these imaginary rings. Many, like him, heard in them in the bathroom or at the beach.

Mr. LARAMIE: I think it has something to do just the with the kind of light noise quality of rushing water that has a lot of different stimuli in it.

COHEN: Ringxiety isn't something to be too concerned about. University of Washington psychology professor Ellen Covey says when we thing about our mobile devices as a fifth limb, there is a neurological reason.

Dr. ELLEN COVEY (University of Washington): Our brain has a topographic map of the body's surface, which means that every point on the body surface has a spot in the cortex where it's represented. And if you continuously wear a cell phone on your hip, you will probably develop some kind of a representation in the cortex of that BlackBerry as a part of your body.

COHEN: As for those phantom rings, Covey explains our brains are hardwired to take incomplete pieces of information and make them whole. For example, I say National Public Ra - you're brain is going to fill them the rest of the word - radio - because that's what it expects. So when you hear something that could be ringing, your brain will likely mistake it for your phone. Humans are instinctively repelled by sounds that indicate danger, Covey says, and drawn to sounds that signal something good.

Dr. COVEY: That's something that we like to hear because it means somebody is trying to talk to us. We're likely to want to hear that, and we typically will hear things that we want to hear.

COHEN: For those who become bothered by phantom buzzes and rings, Ellen Covey offers this advice. Try putting your BlackBerry some place else, your left pocket instead of your right. So your brain is forced to think of it as something that isn't an extension of your body. Or change your ring tone so your brain doesn't expect it. That's what Covey recently did with her phone. I asked her to describe the new ring.

Dr. COVEY: Oh, its sort of like (makes noise).

COHEN: Yup, I don't think she's going to mistake that for another commonly heard sound anytime soon.

Alex Cohen, NPR News.

(Soundbite of ringtone)

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