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Subliminal ring tones

Suddenly I wanted to answer my phone. I'm not sure why.
  [vote for,

There are probably a lot of noises that a cell phone can emit without really drawing anyone's attention: quiet bumps, rustles, knocks, muted conversation, etc. In fact, the phone could automatically pick these noises up from its environment a la the Deja Vu House idea.

Even though we don't pay attention to these sorts of background sounds, we still hear them, and sometimes react to them indirectly. A particular sequence and timing (bump ... rustle ... thump), if it reliably occurs before some other event, will eventually start reminding us of that event even if we don't consciously remember the correlation. An outdoors[wo]man might know that the weather is about to change, without having consciously registered the changes in wind pattern, temperature, cloud movement, etc., which presaged the change.

So: each cell phone owner would be conditioned to associate a certain sequence of everyday environmental noises with getting an incoming phone call. This could be done by using them before normal ring tones for a while (on a cell or landline phone), then eventually turning down and eliminating the normal tones like training wheels. Or other techniques involving dangerous psychoactive drugs could be developed.

(aside: I don't think ringer fidelity would be a problem, for two reasons. One, these subliminal ring tones will be quieter than the normal kind, so they should be within the volume range attainable by the regular speaker (actually, I think the speaker and the ringer are the same thing on my phone, but my point is, they're quieter, so the phone should be able to produce sounds more complex than a square wave). Two, according to other annotations on the HB (my main source of news), cell phone mfrs are planning to produce cell phones with higher-fidelity ringers anyway, so that the ring sound can be arbitrary recorded music instead of beeps.)

A crowd of people all carrying Subliminal-Ringing Cell Phones might make slightly more noise than usual, but only slightly, because the phone's background sound mimicry would adapt to the sound level of its environment. Nobody would be notice and be distracted by other peoples' phones, because they are not conditioned to the same sequence of common sounds. However, every now and then, after a sequence of unintrusive, unexceptional sounds, you would suddenly think to look at your cell phone, and its incoming-call light would be blinking.

wiml, Jun 13 2001


       The phones could be configured to fall back to the ordinary ring if you didn't respond (answering or pressing the "do not answer" button) after three "rings" worth of subliminal "ringing". That way if you're in a noisy environment or just not paying attention, you'll still get the call; but normally you'll be alerted without bothering anyone.   

       Are there any cell phones that let you choose an arbitrary sound file as a ring tone? I thought most of them just let you program a series of beeps.   

       P.S. [wiml], why not integrate your postscript into the idea itself, rather than adding an annotation?
egnor, Jun 13 2001

       egnor: good point. Also, if the phone falls back to the normal ringtone, then it will also be reinforcing the subliminal association, if the association starts to get weak.
wiml, Jun 13 2001

       kind of on the same-ish subject, one of my friends in school has a phone where you can record sounds (like a dictaphone) and use them as a ringtone, this got annoying as he recorded sounds from Porn movies and played them quietly in lesson, got the teachers every time "what's going on next door?" was the sure fire response
dekoi, Jun 13 2001

       Would there have to be some sort of database to make sure that no 2 of us use a bittern in a haystack as our ring tone? Perhaps a subliminal tone can be generated as a function of a GSM card's private key.
tenhand, Jun 19 2001

       Let the caller send their own ringer sound/message, and charge them a buck for it. Spouses could get attention when they really want it with private sounds they *know* work :-) Bands could do viral advertising with cooperative fans by sending out snippets of as-yet-unreleased songs to prime attention. Shareholders could transmit raspberries to directors during annual meetings... On the other hand, companies could associate sounds with advertising campaigns and then transmit them in front of subsidized calls, filling everyone's private space with marketing. Sigh.
kamakala, Dec 27 2001

       The subliminal thing can backfire on you. Since they suddenly mean something, your brain pays much more attention to formerly innocent "subliminal" sounds. If you're picking a sound that occurs naturally, you'll be constantly thinking: "was that my phone ringing?"
jutta, May 30 2004


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