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Annoyance of cell phone use in public spaces

Dear List

I am afraid I am not the only one who is at times annoyed by having to
overhear mobile phone users ranting in public spaces. Strangely enough, it
seems to me that overhearing a face-to-face conversation happens much less
frequently and when it does it seems much less annoying. I wonder whether
there is a consensus that

(a) Overhearing phone users is more annoying than overhearing plain old
face-to-face talk, and
(b) Assuming (a) is true, WHY that is.

Signs at stores and restaurants barring cell phones, or New York's "quiet
cars" in commuter trains seem to support point (a); after all, these signs
are not accompanied by "Quite please" or "No laughing at all times" signs.

As for point (b):

Do people talk louder on the phone than in ordinary conversation? If so,

Is it the mic sensitivity? If the sound pickup were rather insensitive, I
would have though that someone had already done something about it. So that
is probably not the issue.

Is it the SNR? On the sender's side the pickup is close to the mouth and on
the receiving end the transducer is close to the ear, so one would think
that the SNR tends to be better than in "real life". On the other hand, in a
phone link there are potentially two interfering background sound scapes
(one at the sending end transmitted to the receiving end and one at the
receiving end proper) whereas in the face-to-face conversation there is only
one (shared) background sound scape. Also, the binaural cues are missing, so
perceptual jammer suppression is harder to do and a larger SNR is required.
Visual cues (lip reading) are also unavailable, requiring a larger SNR.
Still, is that really it?

Does it have to do with the dynamic range of the channel?

Or is it perceptual, some sort of Lombard reflex, not caused by noise but
simply a reaction to the fact that the little voice on the other end sounds
so far away or the hope that I can reduce long-distance charges if I yell
loud enough.

Does it have to do with the perception of my own voice through the side-tone

Does it have to do with the content of the conversation? (less inhibited on
the phone)

I wonder whether anyone ever studied this with a reasonable amount of care.
Seems like its our social responsibility ;-)

-- Hannes

PS: News stories on the topic:

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