Phantom Vibrations

by George Lovell | | 0 comments

Our brains are predicting machines. Constantly deciphering sensory data to figure out what we should do next.

Vision starts with an expectation of what is around the corner. The more ambiguous the input, the greater the reliance on prior knowledge.

Artwork, particularly abstract art, is made possible because the human brain constructs what it experiences. The painter Marcel Duchamp once said that an artist does only 50% of the work in creating art. The remaining 50% is in the viewer’s brain (Some artists and philosophers call the second half “the beholder’s share.

When you are thirsty, and take a drink of water, you instantly quench your thirst, right?. Well, it actually takes 20 minutes for water to reach your bloodstream. The brain enables the action, and as you drink, the brain anticipates the sensory effects that it will have, causing you to feel less thirsty well before you are actually hydrated.

Having learned about this, we realised that the same phenomenon occurs with our phones.

Have you ever felt you phone vibrate in your pocket when you're expecting a notification, only to find that it hasn't? This is called "Phantom Vibration". A persons proclivity to phantom phone experiences may be an accurate indicator of how much influence their phones have on their lives, or how reliant they are on them. If you react strongly and emotionally to messages, you're more likely to experience phantom vibrations.

Sometimes someone else's phone rings or beeps, and you instinctively tap your pocket, especially if they have the same ringtone. Perhaps you have an alarm or a reminder that triggers every day at the same time, and you look at your phone moments before it goes off. This is no coincidence. The brain is making predictions. We have become so concerned with missing a call or notification, that we've become extremely aware of sensations that one is incoming.

Have you ever been expecting and dreading a call? Then you'll know how any sound that resembles a phone ringer can trigger anxiety. Our brain does all sorts of things to fill in gaps and make predictions to keep us safe. Perhaps we place too much emphasise on the importance of calls and notifications. 

If we can condition our brains to distinguish between genuine emergencies and threats that require immediate attention versus an Instagram notification, we might just feel a bit more calm and focused in our day-to-day lives.

FYI, it's clearly more rabbit than duck.

Thanks for reading!

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