Phantom phone signals: An investigation into the prevalence and predictors of imagined cell phone signals

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This paper aims to elucidate the peculiar phenomenon of imagined cell phone signals, or Phantom Phone Signals (PPS), which is defined as an individual's perception of a phone signal, indicating an incoming call, message, or social media notification, when in fact no such signal was transmitted. A survey among 408 US citizens confirmed that PPS is a highly prevalent phenomenon: Almost 50% of all respondents indicated to experience some form of PPS at least once a week, and 63% at least once a month. Further results show that intensity of phone use, self-reported excessive use, and phone addiction are positively related to the frequency of experiencing PPS. The explanation for these findings might be that chronically accessible schemas resulting from intensive phone use may result in misinterpretations of other signals, or in benign hallucinations, and that the perceived importance of phone use makes people more vigilant to potential phone signals. Need for popularity (NFP) proved to be a stronger predictor of PPS than need to belong, supporting the assumption that NFP is a good predictor for socially induced behavior. Finally, the injunctive and descriptive norms about being accessible on the phone only approached significance in their positive relation to experiencing PPS.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)356-362
JournalComputers in Human Behavior
Issue numberpart A
Publication statusPublished - 2015


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