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Why cell phone talkers are annoys-makers

Unpredictable “halfalogues” distract those trying to do other things

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1:19pm, September 17, 2010

They’re everywhere — yammering on the subway, yukking it up on sidewalks, yakking away in restaurants. It’s the invasion of the cell phone slinging, super-annoying attention snatchers!

Cell phone users irritate so mightily because their background chatter forcibly yanks listeners’ attention away from whatever they’re doing, says psychology graduate student Lauren Emberson of Cornell University. Overhearing someone spewing intermittent exclamations into a handheld gadget lacks the predictability of hearing a two-way exchange and thus proves inherently unsettling, Emberson and her colleagues report in an upcoming Psychological Science.

That makes it harder to focus on one’s own immediate business, be it reading a book, contemplating a work presentation or driving a car, the researchers propose.

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