Phantom Vibration Syndrome

9/10 Smartphone Users Experience Phantom Vibration Syndrome

January 11, 2016 - Written By Diego Macias

Smartphones have become extremely important items in our lives, most users wouldn’t think of leaving their phone at home. We get all sorts of notifications on these devices, from casual social media posts to important emails. For some users that keep their phone in their pockets, there’s a strange phenomenon going on, they might feel like their phone has just vibrated and when they take it out, they realize that there wasn’t any reason for their phones to make a vibration. This phenomenon is often referred to as “Phantom vibration syndrome”, although it might be better categorized as a hallucination, as the brain creates a sensation that is not really there. Recent studies suggest that this kind of hallucination is quite common.

It has been claimed that 90 percent of undergraduates have experienced phantom vibrations. Dr. Robert Rosenberger, philosopher and assistant professor at Georgia Institute of Technology has tried to give a few explanations for this phenomenon. He mentions that some believe that modern technologies are making our brains work in a different way, but he is inclined to believe that one of the causes is “learned body habits”, as a phone that is kept inside a pocket basically becomes a part of their body or an extension of it, this happens with many accessories, including glasses, where users might become unaware that they are wearing them if they use them for long periods of time. Users have been learning to associate the phone’s vibrations with notifications, so they might perceive similar sensations like the movement of clothes or muscle spasms as a notification from their phone. He also mentioned that different technologies are creating more anxiety among users, as call, text and email notifications “have us on edge”.

Studies about phantom vibrations have been made since 2007 and some have concluded that this might happen after carrying a phone for between a month and a year. Apparently, this phenomenon doesn’t occur that often, as most users experience it once every two weeks and it doesn’t seem to bother even those who experience it more frequently. Some might reduce phantom vibrations by carrying their phone in a different position or not using vibration mode for some periods of time.