Annoyed by cellphone blabber? Blame 'halfalogues'

Distracting trends

Annoyed by cellphone blabber? Blame 'halfalogues'

Cellphone inventor Martin Cooper (left) joins CBS’s 60 Minutes correspondent Morley Safer for a re-enactment of the first public cellphone call in New York. Cooper holds a model of the first cellphone his team developed in 1973. AP

Whether it is the office, on a train or in a car, only half of the conversation is overheard which drains more attention and concentration than when overhearing two people talking, according to scientists at Cornell University.

“We have less control to move away our attention from half a conversation (or halfalogue) than when listening to a dialogue,” said Lauren Emberson, a co-author of the study that will be published in the journal Psychological Science.

“Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can’t tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated,” she said in an interview.Last year, Americans spent 2.3 trillion minutes chatting on cellphones, according to the US wireless trade association CTIA — a ninefold increase since 2000.

Worldwide, there are about 4.6 billion cellphone subscribers, according to the International Telecommunications Union, a UN agency. China has the most cellphone users with 634 million, followed by India with 545 million and the United States with 270 million.
Emberson said people try to make sense of snippets of conversation and predict what speakers will say next. “When you hear half of a conversation, you get less information and you can’t predict as well. It requires more attention.”

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