I can’t be the only person to have asked people in quiet carriages in trains to stop making calls or to speak more quietly on a metro train.
I understand that people speak more loudly into a mobile phone than a land line because of the way a mobile phone is constructed and part of it is about being a captive audience. Now researchers at Cornell university have found another reason.
When you listen to a “halfalogue”, or just one half of a conversation, it’s hard to predict what the other, unheard, person is going to say. This makes it more distracting and demands more of our attention.
In the experiments, described in Psychological Science, listening to halfalogues was more distracting than a monologue or a two-way conversation and it resulted in poorer performance on reaction time and tracking exercises.
It seems that when people speak on mobile phones they think no-one is listening when in fact everyone is whether they want to or not, almost like a reflex. Unintentional eavesdropping means you have to pay more attention to work out the meaning.