Phantom Vibration Syndrome

phantom ring by Douglas B Jones

Phantom vibration syndrome or ‘phantom ringing’ is the mistaken feeling that one’s mobile phone is vibrating or ringing. Other terms for this concept include ringxiety (a portmanteau of ‘ring’ and ‘anxiety’) and ‘fauxcellarm’ (a play on ‘false alarm’). It is a form of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon involving a stimulus (such as an image or a sound) wherein the mind perceives a familiar pattern where none actually exists. Phantom ringing may be experienced while taking a shower, watching television, or using a noisy device. Humans are particularly sensitive to auditory tones between 1,000 and 6,000 hertz, and basic mobile phone ringers often fall within this range.

In the comic strip ‘Dilbert,’ cartoonist Scott Adams referenced such a sensation in 1996 as ‘phantom-pager syndrome.’ The earliest published use of the term dates to a 2003 article in the ‘New Pittsburgh Courier,’ written by Robert D. Jones. In the conclusion of the article, Jones writes, ‘…should we be concerned about what our mind or body may be trying to tell us by the aggravating imaginary emanations from belts, pockets and even purses? Whether PVS is the result of physical nerve damage, a mental health issue, or both, this growing phenomenon seems to indicate that we may have crossed a line in this ‘always on’ society.’

 

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