Your annoyance at having to listen to a one-sided phone conversation is normal behaviour, say researchers.
Researchers at Cornell University including Lauren Emberson, doctoral candidate in psychology at Cornell University, and Michael Goldstein, assistant professor of psychology at Cornell say that we are distracted from overhearing half of a conversation-a halfalogue-but not overhearing both sides of a conversation.
Emberson and her co-authors conclude that we are unable to tune out cell-phone conversations, which likely leads to our irritation.
"Hearing half a conversation is distracting because we are unable to predict the succession of speech," Emberson said. "We believe this finding helps reveal how we understand language in conversation: We actively predict what the person is going to say next and this reduces the difficulty of language comprehension.
"People are often more irritated by nearby cell phone conversations rather than conversations between two people who are physically present. Since halfalogues really are more distracting and you can't tune them out, this could explain why people are irritated."
The study, "Overheard Cell-Phone Conversations: When Speech is More Distracting," appears in the peer-reviewed journal, Psychological Science.