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The Phantom Vibrate. If you don't use a holster to carry your BlackBerry or don't have the smartphone set to vibrate in the holster, chances are you haven't experienced this. Those who do holster their BlackBerry smartphones know what I'm talking about. It usually happens on one of two ways. Your "feel" your phone vibrate only to find that it hasn't. In fact, usually the BlackBerry isn't even in the holster. The other way is when you just know you have a message even though you haven't felt the smartphone vibrate or heard an alert tone.
The brain of Homo sapiens is an amazingly complex organ that allows us to make sense of the world around us. Our brains are plastic (not the stuff made from oil); the brain easily adapts to many situations. Take a look at that video up there. At about the 1:20 mark, the folks at Horizon talk about a device designed to add a sixth sense to humans.
A belt sewn with small vibrating motors is all it takes. The motors vibrate in response to the position of magnetic north. No matter which way the subject turned, the one motor pointing north would vibrate. The researchers had their subjects wear these belts every waking moment for six weeks. After a time, the subjects' brains incorporated the vibrations into a new sense; the subjects had a new sense of direction.
Those times when you know you have a message but didn't feel the phone vibrate or hear anything? It's probably due to something similar to this. The human brain is extremely adaptive. It's possible that our brains have adopted the vibrations of smartphones and have actually assimilated them into a new sense. New Message sense or something of the sort.
But what about the phantom vibrate?
Take a look at this video, from same Horizon show, "Is Seeing Believing?" It really doesn't take all that much coaxing to get the brain to believe something not part of the body is a part of the body. In the experiment above, the subject's brain is tricked into believing a rubber arm is the subject's actual arm. When the fake limb is stuck by a hammer, the brain becomes quite confused and shocked.
It's not that far out there to believe the brain has adopted your BlackBerry as a part of you. You wear your BlackBerry in its holster in the same spot nearly every day. Your mind becomes accustomed to those sensations and vibrations. When those sensations and vibrations disappear... the mind begins to make up stories.
This is not that uncommon. Amputees can experience Phantom Limb Syndrome; patients have reported itching and other sensations coming from limbs that are no longer there. Sit in a very dark place long enough and the eyes begin to play tricks, creating splotches of color where very little light exists. Some claim that sensory deprivation chambers can send a person on a wild ride of self-discovery, created from the stories the mind creates.
Those who wear their smartphones can become connected to them mind and body. That's certainly not a bad thing. It simply means that we have adapted ourselves to our smartphones, incorporating them into our minds' map of our body. When you use something as often as you use your BlackBerry, it becomes a part of your life. Is it any wonder that your brain thinks it's part of your body as well?