I always observe people around me when I commute. When two people are talking inside a jeep with complete strangers, don’t you feel the urge to listen? I do. It’s fun listening to conversations of other people when you are bored to death inside public transportation. You may call it gossiping but I guess it’s harmless since I don’t really know them. When listening to them, I feel that I am also part of the conversation, knowing details about stranger’s lives. Feeling and resisting the urge to laugh at a joke is sometimes embarrassing but I guess it’s part of jeep or MRT entertainment – a mini show for that matter. – like The Buzz, SNN, E News, or Showbiz Central.
However, with the advent of new technology, mobile phones are now used for everyday conversations. In this public transportation scenario, many just resort to chit chatting with their friends through phone. Some with the actual phone itself and some even with wireless headsets that make them look like they’re talking to themselves (which is really annoying if you are not the one driving the train or jeep). The catch is, even though I enjoy overhearing live face-to-face conversations of people, I find people talking using moblile phones bothersome. Although I still feel the need to listen effect, I feel that he or she is disturbing my peaceful ride.
Have you ever experienced this? If yes, I think there is a study, which looks into this effect.
A study by Monk, Fellas and Ley entitled Hearing only one side of normal and mobile phone conversations demonstrated the intrusive effect of listening to cell phone conversations. They conducted a field experiment inside a train which tested their hypothesis that hearing only one side of a conversation makes it more noticeable and intrusive.
The employed two confederate actors who staged the same conversation about going on a holiday under three different conditions. The first condition was a cell phone condition, the second was a normal, co-present both audible condition and the last was a co-present only one audible condition. After their conversation, another experimenter approached the participant in order to ask for feedback. The participant answered five Likert scales rating the following statements:
1. The conversation was noticeable
2. I found the volume of the conversation annoying
3. The conversation was intrusive
4. I found myself listening to the conversation
5. The conversation was annoying
Results show that although all situations had an effect on the participants finding themselves listening to the conversation, the cell phone condition was rated more noticeable and intrusive than the normal, co-present both audible condition. The co-present only one-audible condition produced ratings equivalent to the cell phone condition. This clearly supports their hypothesis. The authors explained this effect as due to the manipulations of loudness in cell phone conversations. Raising one’s voice is a natural response to not being able to hear clearly and is common in personal stereo users such as cell phone users. There are also the negative attitudes towards cell phones due to the relative novelty of the technology, cultural stereotypes or bad experiences that make conversations in this medium produce negative affect.
I guess listening to people’s conversations is more interesting if it is multi-sensory. Perceiving speech and conversations are not just a factor of our auditory system but also our visual system. They’re a tag team. Not being able to see the person talked to in mobile phone conversations and not hearing it, leaves a big gap in our imagination to fill in. It’s also applicable if you can see both of them but not hear one. This might also result to misunderstanding. And it actually takes more cognitive capacity and top down processing to understand the conversation and more so to enjoy listening to it.
The next time you feel the need-to-be-chismosa while in a public space, make sure you have motivation and the right cognitive capacity to clearly perceive and enjoy one-sided entertainment conversations. Or better yet, just relax, enjoy your trip and listen to Adele. 🙂
Monk, A., Fellas, E., & Ley, E. (2004). Hearing only one side of normal and mobile phone conversations. Behavior & Information Technology, 23(5), 301-305.