Hearing : Impossible to Tune Out One-Way Cell Conversations

John Luciew

Once again, a scientific study is telling us what we already knew: It's almost impossible to tune out those annoying, one-way cell phone conversations.

This seemingly obvious conclusion comes from a new research paper entitled "The Effects of Cell Phone Conversations on the Attention and Memory of Bystanders" published in the journal PLoS ONE. The study was first reported on by The Atlantic.

In it, about 150 college psychology students were subjected to both two-way conversations and one-way cell phone conversations while they were trying to take a test. They were instructed to rate their level of distractedness during the test.

Turns out, the one-way cell phone conversations preyed harder upon the college students' attention spans. Yet, there was no noticeable impact on the test results for those subjected to the more annoying and distracting cell phone talkers.

Still, the researchers concluded that bystanders were more apt to be distracted by one-sided cell phone conversations -- to the point of actually recalling specifics from the conversations -- because our brains actively try to fill in the unheard side of the conversations.

The ground-breaking conclusion: It is harder to turn-out one-way conversations, compared to less-intrusive chats in which we can hear both sides.

Somewhere in Hollywood, comedian Larry David is feeling justified and resting just a little easier. At least until he encounters his next loud cell phone talker.

So what do you do when subjected to an annoying, one-way cell phone conversation in public places such as restaurants, lounges, buses or trains?

Do you have a tune-out tactic that works? Do you quietly seethe at the banality of the conversation? Or do you ask the offending cell phone squawker to take it somewhere else?

Chime in in the comments.

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