Behaviour & Information Technology, 2014
Vol. 33, No. 12, 1294–1305, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0144929X.2013.876098
Are mobile phone conversations always so annoying? The ‘need-to-listen’ eﬀect re-visited
Brendan Normana∗and Daniel Bennettb
aDepartment of Psychology, University of York, 3 Park Road, Helmshore, Rossendale, Lancashire BB4 4NW, UK; bDepartment of
Psychology, University of York, 1 Balearic Apartments, 15 Western Gateway, Royal Victoria Docks, London E161AP, UK
(Received 28 November 2012; accepted 11 December 2013)
According to Monk et al. (2004a. Why are mobile phones annoying? Behaviour and Information Technology, 23 (1),
33–42), mobile phone conversations are annoying to overhear due to an involuntary need-to-listen in order to predict the
inaudible half of the conversation. However, previous support for this need-to-listen explanation of annoyance has failed to
consider the confound that mobile phone conversations also have less predictable acoustic patterns and has only investigated
‘neutral’ conversations. By staging mobile and face-to-face conversations in public, this study further supports the need-
to-listen explanation. By removing the need-to-listen to the content of a mobile conversation through introducing foreign
speech, bystanders no longer perceived the conversation as more annoying than a conversation between two co-present
individuals, supporting the need-to-listen explanation over unpredictable acoustics. In two further experiments manipulating
conversational content (‘neutral’ vs. ‘intriguing’), ﬁndings suggest that the need-to-listen to mobile phone conversations is
not inherently annoying; it can be annoying or possibly even ‘interesting’ depending on the conversational content.
Keywords: mobile phones; attention; annoyance; half-dialogue; foreign speech; conversational content
The mobile phone has transformed the way we commu-
nicate. At the touch of a button, we can speak to another
person without sharing the same physical space virtually
whenever and wherever we are. With a total of 6.8 bil-
lion, the number of mobile phone subscriptions worldwide
is fast approaching global population ﬁgures (International
Telecommunications Union 2013), demonstrating the strik-
ing pervasiveness of this technology. Equipped with ever-
increasing capabilities, from social networking applications
to satellite navigation, mobile phones are becoming such
an integral part of life that people consider themselves to
have a ‘personal relationship’ with their phone (Kolsaker
and Drakatos 2009). According to a recent survey, 84% of
respondents worldwide claimed that they could not even go
a single day without their mobile phone (Gibbs 2012).
Although the majority of the world’s population appear
to be taking advantage of the beneﬁts aﬀorded by the mobile
phone, the success of a technology depends not only on the
beneﬁts it oﬀers the user, but also the way it aﬀects others.
There is evidence that mobile phone use has created con-
siderable public concern since their widespread adoption in
recent years. Wei and Leung (1999) identiﬁed several pub-
lic places, such as restaurants and educational institutions,
where survey respondents claimed to be irritated by over-
hearing mobile phone conversations. In addition, a recent
study by Intel indicates that 92% of Americans believe peo-
ple should exercise better etiquette when using their mobile
devices in public places (Intel 2011). Further evidence that
mobile phones have created public concern comes from
the policies introduced by various organisations. Many
train operators within the UK now operate ‘quiet’ carriages
where mobile phone calls are prohibited. Some train com-
panies in Japan have even enforced a complete ban for voice
calls on their trains (Dijst 2009).
Despite the above concerns, mobiles phone use contin-
ues to soar as people are becoming increasingly reliant on
their devices. However, it seems that human cognition and
social norms cannot keep up with this profound proliferation
in the use of this technology. Humans have held face-to-face
conversations for thousands of years, and a complex set
of implicit social rules have evolved to guide these inter-
actions. Face-to-face conversations are such an accepted,
integral part of each culture to the point that, in general,
there is nothing particularly remarkable or concerning about
being exposed to people interacting in this way. However,
it seems that the same cannot be said of mobile phone con-
versations. As noted by Monk et al. (2004b), there was no
apparent need for ‘quiet’ carriages before the time of mobile
phones, suggesting that there is something distinctly diﬀer-
ent about overhearing a mobile phone conversation which
constitutes a source of annoyance.
The importance of seeking an explanation for annoy-
ance caused by mobile phones should not be undermined,
as exposure to this technology seems only set to increase
in the future. A number of diﬀerent airline companies now
∗Corresponding author. Email: email@example.com
© 2014 Taylor & Francis
Behaviour & Information Technology 1295
allow mobile phone calls during domestic and international
ﬂights (Kerr 2012,Mayerowitz 2012) and there are plans
to enable mobile connectivity on the London Underground
(Rushton 2012). In light of the common perception that
overhearing a mobile phone conversation is annoying, such
increasing ubiquity is likely to come at the cost of increased
disturbance to the general public. Although it is unrealistic
to suggest that a panacea exists for this problem, if account-
ing for the reason behind such annoyance can point us in the
direction of a measure which goes some way towards miti-
gating the annoyance, then a modest beneﬁt to a vast number
of people can be considered to make this a worthwhile topic
Listening to a mobile phone conversation is a multi-
faceted experience in which innumerable mediating factors
interact to aﬀect the listener’s perceptions. Such complex
interactions result in an indeﬁnite number of potential
‘annoyances’ which may require vastly diﬀerent solutions.
For example, if loud talking is the factor that contributes
most to the perception of a mobile phone conversation
as annoying, then the most obvious solution would be to
encourage only quiet phone calls when within earshot of
other members of public. Although the majority of research
in this area focuses on the way that mobile phone use com-
promises the attention of the user, for example when driving
(Hancock et al. 2003), relatively little research has focused
on how mobile phone conversations aﬀect others sharing the
same space. Based upon such literature, which is reviewed
below, reasons why mobile phone conversations might con-
stitute a particular source of annoyance to bystanders can be
conceived as follows: people speak diﬀerently when using
mobile phones, negative attitudes towards the technology
itself and ‘the need-to-listen’.
1.1. Literature review
1.1.1. People speak diﬀerently
One of the most obvious ways that people might speak
diﬀerently on a mobile phone is by talking louder. From
focus group discussions on inappropriate mobile phone use,
Ling (2004) identiﬁed loud talk as one of the most common
annoyances that mobile phone users inﬂict upon bystanders.
Another explanation is that a mobile phone alters the
speaker’s intent. Persson (2001) coined the term ‘electronic
exhibitionist’ to refer to the idea that people engaging in
mobile phone conversations often aim to convey a partic-
ular impression of themselves to bystanders. For example,
mobile phone users might speak in a self-promoting man-
ner to make themselves seem more successful or popular
to those within earshot. This performative intent might be
annoying to bystanders.
1.1.2. Negative attitudes
Another explanation concerns negative attitudes towards
mobile phones. Such attitudes may represent a lack of
acceptance of the technology itself or a perception of mobile
phone conversations that is marred by previous negative
experiences. In terms of the latter explanation, loud or exhi-
bitionist mobile conversations might have annoyed people
in the past, leading them to view subsequent mobile phone
conversations in this negative light (Monk et al. 2004b).
1.1.3. The ‘need-to-listen’
Although the way that people speak might make some
mobile conversations annoying, several ﬁndings cast doubt
on this as the sole cause of annoyance. Covertly recording
real-life conversations at a USA university campus, Forma
and Kaplowitz (2012) found that mobile phone conversa-
tions were only slightly louder than conversations between
two physically present (co-present) individuals, suggest-
ing that loudness is not the main explanation of mobile
phone annoyance. While this ﬁnding does not completely
rule out loudness as the primary annoyance, ﬁrmer evidence
that the above explanations are limited suggests that there
is something more intrinsically annoying about overhear-
ing a mobile phone conversation. In two studies conducted
at a bus station and aboard several trains (Monk et al.
2004a,2004b), actors staged mobile and face-to-face con-
versations controlled for content and loudness. Participants,
who were unwitting bystanders within earshot, considered
mobile phone conversations to be more annoying (Monk
et al. 2004a) or intrusive (Monk et al. 2004b) than co-
present conversations. This ﬁnding questions the ‘people
speak diﬀerently’ hypothesis as the sole explanation of
annoyance, suggesting that not only loud or exhibitionist
mobile conversations annoy bystanders.
Monk et al. (2004a,2004b) attribute such heightened
annoyance to two factors: only hearing one side of mobile
phone conversations and the ‘need-to-listen eﬀect’. Accord-
ing to these authors, overhearing a conversation automat-
ically triggers an involuntary attentional mechanism or a
‘commitment to understand’ (Monk et al. 2004b, p. 302)
what is being communicated. However, when we only hear
half of a conversation, as with mobile phones, it is diﬃ-
cult to follow the conversation and fully understand what is
being said. As such, mobile phone conversations demand a
greater need-to-listen in order to fathom the unheard half of
the conversation and fulﬁl the understanding desired by the
cognitive system. This need-to-listen eﬀect is considered to
be annoying because it makes mobile phone conversations
harder to ignore.
While the above ﬁnding suggests that there is some-
thing other than interlocutors speaking in a ‘diﬀerent’
way that makes overhearing a mobile phone conversa-
tion inherently annoying, the ﬁnding does not preclude
the ‘negative attitudes’ explanation. In order to rule out
this explanation, two further studies (Monk et al. 2004b,
Forma and Kaplowitz 2012) exposed bystanders to one-
sided conversations when there was no mobile phone;
one actor spoke inaudibly in a co-present conversation.
1296 B. Norman and D. Bennett
Bystanders still rated these conversations as more annoying
than conversations between two audible speakers, sup-
porting the need-to-listen explanation instead of negative
1.1.4. Need to listen vs. unpredictable acoustics
While the need-to-listen eﬀect might provide a compelling
explanation of why mobile phone conversations can be
annoying, another aspect of overhearing a one-sided con-
versation might underlie such heightened annoyance. One-
sided conversations are less predictable not only in terms
of content, or trying to understand what is being said, but
also in terms of acoustic patterns (Emberson et al. 2010).
When listening to a co-present conversation, the turns shift
between individuals continuously. However, when listen-
ing to a mobile phone conversation, this relatively constant
acoustic stream is disrupted by extended intervals of silence.
For a bystander, this unpredictable ‘on–oﬀ’ acoustic pattern
could constitute a source of annoyance.
Several ﬁndings suggest that the ‘unpredictable acous-
tics’ hypothesis oﬀers a plausible alternative explanation
of annoyance attributable to hearing half of a conversa-
tion. According to a large-scale questionnaire study, oﬃce
workers are most distracted by noises that are unpredictable
(Kjellberg et al. 1996). Furthermore, there is evidence that
annoyance caused by sources of unpredictable noise, such
as highways, fails to subside over time (Weinstein 1982).
Establishing whether the need-to-listen eﬀect or unpre-
dictable acoustics explanation underlies mobile phone
annoyance is not simply to satisfy academic curiosity. Teas-
ing apart the contribution of such factors could inform
the potential utility of radically contrasting measures to
enhance the acceptance of mobile communication devices.
If the latter explanation is supported, then a technological
solution may be more appropriate. Ward, Rivera and Vega
(2008) suggest that reducing line delay causes less disrup-
tion to the ﬂow of mobile phone conversations, which could
make acoustic patterns more regular and thus less annoy-
ing to bystanders. Alternatively, if the need-to-listen eﬀect
underlies such annoyance, then one potential solution would
be to encourage people to adjust handset settings so that
bystanders can hear the person on the other end of the line
(Monk et al. 2004b).
One way to tease apart these two competing explana-
tions is through a method employed by Emberson et al.
(2010). In order to assess the distractability of diﬀerent
types of overheard speech, participants completed atten-
tional tasks while listening to a complete dialogue or a
dialogue with half of the turns removed; a ‘halfologue’.
Filtering the speech to become content-free eliminated the
performance detriment for overhearing halfologues com-
pared to dialogues. This ﬁnding suggests that it is not
unpredictable acoustic patterns (unchanged by the ﬁlter)
but the need-to-listen to the content that makes hearing half
of a conversation more distracting.
1.1.5. This experiment
In order to tease apart ‘unpredictable acoustics’ and the
need-to-listen eﬀect as explanations of mobile phone annoy-
ance, this experiment introduces Emberson et al.’s (2010)
approach of using unintelligible speech into a replication of
Monk et al. (2004a). Comparing how annoying participants
ﬁnd mobile phone conversations in two diﬀerent languages,
one in their native language and another in a language they
do not understand, can inform whether such annoyance is
attributable to the need-to-listen eﬀect or less predictable
acoustics. Whereas mobile conversations in both languages
have similar on–oﬀ acoustic patterns, only the native con-
versation should trigger a desire to follow the content, and
thus increase annoyance according to the need-to-listen
explanation. This investigation will also go on to assess the
eﬀect of conversational content on the need-to-listen eﬀect
as suggested by Monk et al. (2004a).
•Hypothesis 1: Participants will ﬁnd themselves listen-
ing to an English mobile conversation (EMC) more
and ﬁnd it more annoying than an English co-present
conversation (ECC) (as found by Monk et al. (2004a);
see Section 1.3).
Hypotheses 2 and 3 are based upon Emberson et al.’s
(2010) ﬁnding that the need-to-listen and not less pre-
dictable acoustics makes mobile phone conversations more
distracting (see Section 1.4).
•Hypothesis 2: Participants will not ﬁnd themselves
listening to a Chinese mobile conversation (CMC)
more and will not ﬁnd it more annoying than a
Chinese co-present conversation (CCC).
•Hypothesis 3: Participants will ﬁnd themselves lis-
tening to an EMC more and ﬁnd it more annoying
than a CMC.
2. Experiment 1. The need-to-listen eﬀect or
Participants were an opportunity sample, consisting of
65 English-speaking individuals (27 male) present in one
of two waiting rooms at Moorgate Primary Care Cen-
tre in Bury, Greater Manchester. All participants ticked
a box on their response sheet which conﬁrmed that they
did not understand Mandarin Chinese. Participants indi-
cated their age by selecting one of the following age-range
options: 0–20 (6.15%), 21–30 (18.46%), 31–40 (15.38%),
41–50 (24.62%), 51–60 (16.92%), 61–70 (9.23%) and 70+
A between-subjects design was employed, with partici-
pants randomly allocated to experimental conditions. There
Behaviour & Information Technology 1297
were two independent variables: language and communi-
cation medium. Communication medium had two levels:
co-present and mobile phone. The language spoken was
English or Mandarin Chinese. The dependent variables
were the level of agreement with the two statements,
‘I found myself listening to the conversation’ and ‘The
conversation was annoying’.
Actors’ mobile phones were set to ‘silent’ mode in order
to avoid disrupting the patients and staﬀ within the wait-
ing room. The ‘DecibelMeter’ ® Apple iPhone 3GS ®
app was used to provide live feedback of the volume of
Identical English and Chinese conversations were scripted,
consisting of dinner arrangements for that evening and
plans to visit a mutual friend (see Appendix). Conversa-
tions lasted approximately 1 min, with 12 turns. The mobile
phone conversation for each language consisted of the same
script but with one actor’s turns removed. The actors were
undergraduate students from the University of York. Two
actors of British nationality (one male, one female) per-
formed the ECCs, and two actors of Chinese nationality (one
male, one female) performed the CCCs. Mobile phone con-
versations were shared equally between the male and female
actors from each pair. Chinese was used as the foreign
language as it was expected that English-speaking partici-
pants were unlikely to recognise words or sounds from this
language due to its origins being very distant to those of
English. Ideally, several other languages would have been
used to ensure that ﬁndings did not reﬂect reactions to the
sound of the Chinese language per se, but unfortunately this
was not possible due to practical constraints.
The procedure was identical to that employed by Monk
et al. (2004a). The actor(s) entered the waiting room and sat
near individuals with space to join them nearby. Those who
were visibly ill or engaged to the extent that they would not
notice the conversation (e.g. talking with another person)
were not considered for participation in the study. Thus,
participants were selected at random with the constraint
that they were not fully engaged and were positioned with
unoccupied seats nearby.
After approximately 1 min, the actor(s) commenced
the staged conversation. To signal the end of the conver-
sation, the actor(s) made an excuse to leave the waiting
room (to go to the toilet) and then exited. The non-acting
researcher then approached people considered to be within
earshot of the conversation and explained that we were
‘looking into how peoples’ conversations aﬀect others in
public places’ and whether they noticed the conversation
that had just taken place. If the person replied ‘yes’, then the
researcher asked if they would respond to a few questions
about the conversation. Three people claimed not to hear the
conversation (three from CMC, three from CCC, one from
EMC). A further six people chose not to take part in the
study. One response sheet item asked if participants thought
the conversation was staged; none did. All participants were
The actors alternated between the two waiting rooms at
the care centre. The relatively fast turnover of patients and
the fact that the waiting rooms were on separate levels made
it unlikely that participants had seen the conversation staged
beforehand, but actors avoided approaching individuals
who they suspected to have seen them previously.
So that conversation volume did not confound results,
it was important that all actors spoke at the same consis-
tent volume across all experimental conditions. To address
this issue, actors monitored their speech using a live smart-
phone app which rested on their lap. At short intervals,
the actors checked the volume of their speech as incon-
spicuously as possible to ensure that it kept within a
range of 58–72 dB; the approximate volume of normal con-
versation (e.g. http://www.physicsclassroom.com/class/
sound/u11l2b.cfm). While this is quite a crude method of
controlling for volume, the superior technique of measuring
the sound volume as it reached the participant would have
been overly intrusive in this setting, and was incompatible
with attempts to make the conversations as natural as pos-
sible. Furthermore, the actors practised their conversations
extensively before the study in diﬀerent public settings, and
care was taken to ensure that actors were consistent in terms
of volume and performance across all conversations.
Data were the level of agreement with two scales: ‘I found
myself listening to the conversation (Scale 1)’ and ‘The
conversation was annoying (Scale 2)’ for the two diﬀerent
languages and media of conversation. This was indicated
by responses on a scale ranging from 1, ‘strongly disagree’,
to 7, ‘strongly agree’.
Scale 1 was designed to measure the extent that par-
ticipants found themselves following the content of the
conversation; the ‘need-to-listen’. Figure 1depicts the mean
ratings for each condition, indicating a greater need-to-
listen to the EMC than any other conversation. There was
a generally lower need-to-listen to the Chinese conversa-
tions, and the diﬀerence between mobile and co-present
conversations for this language were less pronounced.
Scale 2 was designed to measure negative attitudes
towards the conversation; how ‘annoying’ participants
found it. Figure 2depicts a similar pattern to that of Scale
1, with the EMC perceived as considerably more annoy-
ing than the other conversations. Similarly, there is little
diﬀerence between perceived level of annoyance between
the CMC and CCC. However, unlike Scale 1, both Chinese
conversations were perceived as intermediate in terms of
annoyance; lower than EMC but greater than ECC.
1298 B. Norman and D. Bennett
Level of agreement
Figure 1. Mean ratings and 95% conﬁdence intervals for Scale
1, ‘I found myself listening to the conversation’ for English
and Chinese conversations. A score of 1 indicates strong dis-
agreement with the statement, and 7 indicates strong agreement.
Mean ratings (standard deviations in parentheses): EMC =4.8
(1.94), ECC =2.83 (1.59), CMC =1.63 (0.72), CCC =2.41
Level of agreement
Figure 2. Mean ratings and 95% conﬁdence intervals for Scale
2, ‘The conversation was annoying’ for English and Chinese con-
versations. Mean ratings (standard deviations in parentheses):
EMC =4.05 (1.88), ECC =1.92 (1.24), CMC =3.00 (1.26),
CCC =2.88 (1.22).
Data from the two scales did not meet the assump-
tions for parametric analysis according to Levene’s test for
homogeneity of variance. An arcsine transformation and
log transformations using various bases failed to satisfy the
assumption of homogeneity of variance, so non-parametric
analyses were applied. To assess how the results relate to
the hypotheses, three planned pairwise comparisons were
conducted for each scale through multiple Mann–Whitney
Utests, employing a Bonferroni correction to control for
Type I errors, which adjusted the signiﬁcance level to
Hypothesis 1 predicted greater ‘listening’ and annoy-
ance for an EMC than an ECC. Accordingly, listening and
annoyance were compared for EMC and ECC. Participants
found themselves listening to the EMC signiﬁcantly more
than the ECC (U(20, 12)=52, p=.0072). Similarly, par-
ticipants rated the EMC signiﬁcantly more annoying than
the ECC (U(20, 12)=41.5, p=.0015). Thus, results from
both scales support Hypothesis 1.
Hypothesis 2 predicted no diﬀerence between Chinese
mobile and co-present conversations in terms of listening
or annoyance. In support of this hypothesis, there was no
signiﬁcant diﬀerence between CMC and CCC for listening
(U(16, 17)=105, p=.276) nor annoyance (U(16, 17)=
Hypothesis 3 predicted greater listening and annoyance
for an EMC than a CMC. Consistent with this hypothesis,
participants found themselves listening to the EMC signif-
icantly more than the CMC (U(20, 16)=24, p<.0001).
However, despite a greater need-to-listen, EMC was not
rated signiﬁcantly more annoying than CMC (U(20, 16)=
104, p=.0771). Thus, results only support Hypothesis 3 in
terms of listening.
The comparison between EMC and ECC replicates
Monk et al.’s (2004a) ﬁnding that people have a greater
‘need-to-listen’ to mobile phone conversations and that this
can be annoying. When intelligible content was removed by
introducing a foreign language, the CMC and CCC did not
diﬀer signiﬁcantly in terms of ‘need to listen’ or annoy-
ance. This ﬁnding supports the need-to-listen explanation
over unpredictable acoustics, as ratings from both scales
suggest that a mobile phone conversation is no longer more
attention-consuming or annoying than a co-present conver-
sation when we cannot understand any of what is being
said. Thus, it seems that mobile phone conversations are
not annoying due to unpredictable acoustic patterns, but
because we are ‘forced’ to listen more to them in order
to understand the whole conversation. Although the ﬁnd-
ings from the English conversations oﬀer direct support
for Monk et al.’s need-to-listen explanation, the authors
adopt a necessarily cautious approach when considering the
strength of further support aﬀorded by the Chinese conver-
sations. Since accepting the need-to-listen, as opposed to
the unpredictable acoustics explanation, essentially relies
upon the acceptance of the null hypothesis as true in both
rating scales for Chinese conversations, the above inter-
pretation cannot be conclusively supported. While it is
fair to say that the direction of results for Chinese con-
versations certainly favours the need-to-listen explanation,
replications with other samples and in other settings are
required to reach the same level of support as for English
In contrast to the above, the result of a non-signiﬁcant
diﬀerence in perceived ‘annoyingness’ between English and
CMCs despite a greater ‘need to listen’ to the EMC suggests
that the need-to-listen eﬀect alone is an insuﬃcient expla-
nation of annoyance. Therefore, results are probably more
consistent with Monk et al.’s (2004b) conclusion that the
need-to-listen can make mobile phone conversations annoy-
ing, but only when combined with other factors such as
excessive loudness or, as investigated below, certain types
of conversational content.
Behaviour & Information Technology 1299
3. Experiment 2. Does an ‘intriguing’ mobile phone
conversation exaggerate the ‘need-to-listen’ eﬀect
To our knowledge, the need-to-listen eﬀect has only been
studied for mobile conversations of relatively ‘neutral’
content. Since mobile conversations are not restricted to
such content in real life, it is potentially useful to com-
pare whether mobile phone conversations of other con-
tents enhance the need-to-listen and bystander annoyance.
Research into the inﬂuence of ‘content’ could inform the
extent of the public concern over mobile phone use and
oﬀer a richer knowledge of the need-to-listen in the context
of the inﬁnitely diverse range of technology-mediated inter-
actions that occur in real life. This experiment will compare
English mobile and co-present conversations of neutral (as
above; but now referred to as NMC and NCC, respectively)
and ‘intriguing’ content (intriguing mobile (IMC), intrigu-
ing co-present (ICC)). According to Monk et al.’s (2004a,
2004b) interpretation of the need-to-listen eﬀect, people
should ﬁnd themselves listening even more to a mobile
phone conversation, and thus experience more annoyance,
when the desire to fathom the other half of the conversation
is greater. One such case might be with a conversation of
intriguing content, where the audible mobile phone user is
evidently learning of absorbing facts or noteworthy happen-
ings from their inaudible interlocutor. Thus, the following
•Hypothesis 4: There will be a greater eﬀect of medium
on ‘listening’ for the intriguing content (with greater
ratings for the mobile phone conversation).
•Hypothesis 5: The will be a greater eﬀect of medium
on ‘annoyance’ for the intriguing content (with
greater ratings for the mobile phone conversation).
All methods were identical to Experiment 1 except for
one key diﬀerence: the two Chinese conversations were
replaced by English conversations which were intended
to be intriguing. The ‘intriguing’ content consisted of the
conﬂicting fortunes of a mutual friend who had recently
won money on the lottery, but also discovered her partner’s
inﬁdelity (see Appendix). This conversation lasted approxi-
mately 1 min (16 turns). The volume of these conversations
was controlled as above. Only one individual approached
failed to notice the intriguing conversation (co-present). The
data from the two scales for the neutral English conversa-
tions in Experiment 1 were retained in order to compare
these to ratings of the IMC and ICCs.
Participants for the intriguing conversations were recruited
from the same Primary Care Centre waiting rooms as in
Experiment 1. When combined with the participants in the
Level of agreement
Figure 3. Mean ratings and 95% conﬁdence intervals for Scale
1, ‘I found myself listening to the conversation’ for neutral and
intriguing contents. Mean ratings (standard deviations in parenthe-
ses): NMC =4.8 (1.94), NCC =2.83 (1.59), IMC =5.25 (1.76),
ICC =2.83 (1.95).
neutral English conditions from Experiment 1, the sample
consisted of 55 English-speaking individuals (20 male, 1
chose not to disclose their gender). The distribution of age
ranges for this sample was: 0–20 (1.82%), 21–30 (14.55%),
31–40 (14.55%), 41–50 (23.64%), 51–60 (12.73%), 61–70
(7.27%) and 70+(3.64%).
Employing a between-subjects design, the two indepen-
dent variables were communication medium and conver-
sational content. Communication medium had two levels:
co-present and mobile phone. The conversational con-
tent was neutral or intriguing. The dependent variables
were level of agreement with the same statements from
Figure 3depicts a main eﬀect of conversation medium,
where participants found themselves listening to both con-
tents considerably more when mediated by a mobile phone.
Contrary to predictions, the magnitude of this eﬀect appears
similar for both types of conversational content.
Figure 4depicts that participants rated the NMC as
considerably more annoying than the other conversations.
There is very little diﬀerence in perceived annoyance
between the intriguing conversations. The NCC was rated as
marginally less annoying than the intriguing conversations.
Data from both scales did not meet the assumptions for
parametric analysis according to Levene’s test for homo-
geneity of variance, which the same data transformations
as above failed to amend. Thus, the same non-parametric
analyses were applied as in Experiment 1. Planned pair-
wise comparisons were made through multiple Mann–
Whitney Utests, with a Bonferroni correction adjusting
the signiﬁcance level to p<.0166.
Hypothesis 4 predicted a greater eﬀect of medium on
‘listening’ for intriguing conversations compared to neutral
1300 B. Norman and D. Bennett
Level of agreement
Figure 4. Mean ratings and 95% conﬁdence intervals for Scale
2, ‘The conversation was annoying’ for neutral and intrigu-
ing contents. Mean ratings (standard deviations in parentheses):
NMC =4.05 (1.88), NCC =1.92 (1.24), IMC =2.33 (1.23),
ICC =2.33 (1.56).
conversations. Thus, the diﬀerence between NMC and
NCC in terms of ‘listening’ was ﬁrst compared. Since this
involves the same data as in Experiment 1 (EMC vs. ECC),
it is already known that participants found themselves lis-
tening to the mobile conversation signiﬁcantly more than
the co-present conversation (U(20, 12)=52, p=.0072).
To determine whether there was a similar eﬀect of medium
on ‘listening’ for the intriguing conversations, IMC and ICC
were compared. Similar to the results for neutral content,
participants found themselves listening signiﬁcantly more
to the IMC than the ICC (U(12, 12)=26, p=.0068).
The above tests reveal a signiﬁcant eﬀect of medium on
‘listening’ for neutral and intriguing conversations. To test
Hypothesis 4, the magnitude of these eﬀects was compared.
This involved a test to compare Zeﬀect sizes of medium
on ‘listening’ for neutral (Z=−2.68) and intriguing (Z=
−2.70) contents using the following formula (Rosenthal
and Rosnow 1991):
This test yielded a new Zof 0.018. The pvalue which cor-
responds to this new Zis .4920, indicating that, contrary
to Hypothesis 4, the eﬀect of medium for the two diﬀerent
contents is not signiﬁcantly diﬀerent.
Hypothesis 5 predicted a greater eﬀect of medium on the
perceived ‘annoyingness’ of intriguing conversations com-
pared to neutral conversations. As known from Experiment
1, participants found the NMC signiﬁcantly more annoying
than the NCC (U(20, 12)=41.5, p=.0015). To determine
whether there was a similar eﬀect of medium on ‘annoy-
ingness’ for the intriguing conversations, IMC and ICC
were compared. Contrary to the results for neutral content,
there was no signiﬁcant diﬀerence between IMC and ICC
in ratings of annoyingness (U(12, 12)=66.5, p=.7553).
Notably, the NMC was rated as signiﬁcantly more annoying
than the IMC (U(20, 12)=56, p=.0118).
Considered together, the results from this experiment
suggest that we have a comparably heightened need-to-
listen to mobile phone conversations (relative to co-present
conversations) for neutral and intriguing contents. How-
ever, it seems this only contributes to greater annoyance
when the discussion consists of neutral content. Therefore,
results suggest that Monk et al. (2004a,2004b) may have
oversimpliﬁed the need-to-listen eﬀect by solely attribut-
ing it to mobile phone annoyance. Instead, it seems that the
need-to-listen to a mobile phone conversation is not inher-
ently annoying; but only when we are ‘forced’ to listen to
relatively unremarkable, mundane content.
4. Experiment 3. Can the need-to-listen be an
Existing literature only considers the need-to-listen eﬀect as
a contributor to mobile phone annoyance. However, Experi-
ment 2 suggests that a greater need-to-listen is not annoying
for IMCs. Using the same conversations as Experiment
2, this investigation will now depart from the wide held
assumption that mobile phone conversations are annoying
by considering an aﬀective reaction that is generally ignored
within existing literature; does the greater need-to-listen to
an IMC actually provoke interest?
The need-to-listen was not considered to contribute to
heightened annoyance towards the IMC Experiment 2. In
light of this ﬁnding, Hypothesis 6 is a post hoc prediction
of a greater eﬀect of medium on ratings of ‘interestingness’
for intriguing content (with greater ratings for the mobile
Exactly the same methods were employed as before with
the same conversations as Experiment 2. The only diﬀer-
ence was the dependent variable; responses were level of
agreement with the statement, ‘The conversation was inter-
esting’. Participants were the same as for Experiment 2, as
this scale was presented on the same response sheet as the
scales assessed above.
Data were the level of agreement with the statement ‘The
conversation was interesting’ (Scale 3), indicated through
the same rating scale as in the previous experiments.
Figure 5shows a similar pattern to that of ‘annoyance’ in
Figure 4, except for this scale, the IMC is rated considerably
higher than the other conversations, with little diﬀerence
between neutral conversations.
Again, data did not meet the assumptions of parametric
analysis according to Levene’s test for homogeneity of vari-
ance, which the same data transformations as above failed
to amend. Thus, the same non-parametric pairwise com-
parisons as for the scales in Experiment 2 were made using
Behaviour & Information Technology 1301
Level of agreement
Figure 5. Mean ratings and 95% conﬁdence intervals for Scale
3, ‘The conversation was interesting’ for neutral and intrigu-
ing contents. Mean ratings (standard deviations in parenthe-
ses): NMC =2.3 (1.62), NCC =2.00 (1.04), IMC =4.17 (2.21),
ICC =2.17 (1.19).
multiple Mann–Whitney tests with a Bonferroni correction
adjusting the signiﬁcance level to p<.0166.
Hypothesis 6 predicted a greater eﬀect of medium on rat-
ings of ‘interestingness’ for intriguing content. Thus, NMC
and NCC were ﬁrst compared. There was no signiﬁcant dif-
ference between ratings of ‘interestingness’ between NMC
and NCC (U(20, 12)=114.5, p=.833). IMC and ICC
were then compared. Contrary to Hypothesis 6, there was no
signiﬁcant diﬀerence between ratings of ‘interestingness’
between IMC and ICC (U(12, 12)=34.5, p=.0284).
Thus, results do not support Hypothesis 6 as there was
no signiﬁcant eﬀect of medium on Scale 3 for either con-
tent. However, the diﬀerence IMC and ICC did approach
signiﬁcance, and would have been considered statistically
signiﬁcant if not for the Bonferroni correction. Similarly, the
diﬀerence between NMC and IMC is not statistically signif-
icant (U(20, 12)=60.5, p=.0189) due to the Bonferroni
The pattern of the present results suggests that the
greater need-to-listen to a mobile phone conversation is
not an inherently negative experience, but that it actually
coincides with greater perceived ‘interestingness’ for an
IMC. However, such greater ratings of interestingness fell
marginally short of signiﬁcance. In spite of this, the predic-
tion that the need-to-listen eﬀect contributes to positive but
not negative aﬀect for some mobile conversations should
not be discounted based upon this experiment alone for sev-
eral reasons. First, the ﬁndings of greater interest in the IMC
were only non-signiﬁcant due to the Bonferroni correction
that produced a more conservative signiﬁcance level. Sec-
ond, failure to achieve statistical signiﬁcance may be due
to the relatively small sample size, combined with the large
error variance due to a lack of control in the natural setting.
Perhaps with more participants, parametric analyses with
greater statistical power would have been acceptable, which
probably would have yielded a signiﬁcant result. Taking
these factors into account, it seems reasonable to assume
that the ‘need-to-listen’ eﬀect is not solely a contributor
of annoyance, but that it might engender more favourable
attitudes towards some mobile phone conversations. Fur-
ther studies employing larger samples would be required in
order to conclusively discount this possibility.
5. General discussion
In summary, the present experiments enrich our knowl-
edge of the ‘need-to-listen’ explanation of mobile phone
annoyance. Experiment 1 adds further weight to the
‘need-to-listen’ explanation by ruling out the confound of
unpredictable acoustic patterns. Experiments 2 and 3 pro-
vide a new multi-faceted perspective on the need-to-listen
eﬀect by considering diﬀerent conversational contents. The
results suggest that being ‘forced’ to listen more to mobile
phone conversations in this way is only annoying for rela-
tively unremarkable (neutral) contents, and suggests that (to
a certain degree) it might actually be a positive, interesting
experience for ‘intriguing’ contents (Table 1).
The ﬁnding that it is the need-to-listen to the conversa-
tional content and not unpredictable acoustics that makes
mobile phone conversations more annoying is consistent
with previous research. Emberson et al. (2010) found that
this particular aspect of overhearing ‘halfologues’ and not
less predictable acoustic patterns impaired performance in
attentionally demanding tasks. Taken together, these ﬁnd-
ings imply that the need-to-listen eﬀect can contribute to
annoyance due to the consumption of cognitive resources.
Perhaps participants were annoyed more by the EMC than
the CMC because the greater need-to-listen engaged atten-
tion, making it diﬃcult to ‘tune out’ of. While the present
study does not fully allow such inferences, this could be
Table 1. Summary table; ratings for ‘listening’, ‘annoying’ and ‘interesting’ for all
conditions (mediums/languages/contents) tested.
Neutral Neutral Neutral Intriguing Neutral Intriguing
Listening 1.63 2.41 4.8 5.25 2.83 2.83
Annoying 3 2.88 4.05 2.33 1.92 2.33
Interesting 2.3 2 4.17 2.17
1302 B. Norman and D. Bennett
investigated by comparing annoyance for participants who
are unengaged to those who were engaged (within limits)
in a task, such as reading a magazine. If the need to listen
is annoying due to such distraction, then it could be more
annoying to engaged bystanders to whom focused attention
is more important.
Several of the present ﬁndings suggest that the greater
need-to-listen to mobile phone conversations should not be
equated with annoyance. Although participants indicated
listening to the EMC more than the CMC, these conversa-
tions were not signiﬁcantly diﬀerent in terms of annoyance.
Similarly, participants listened to the IMC more than the
ICC but did not ﬁnd it more annoying. Monk et al. (2004b)
found a similar distinction between ‘listening’ and ‘annoy-
ingness’ and concluded that the need-to-listen eﬀect is not
a sole cause of mobile phone annoyance but a contribu-
tor when combined with other annoyances such as loud
conversations or annoying content. While the present ﬁnd-
ings support this notion, they also suggest that Monk et al.
oversimplify the eﬀect. Taken together with the direction
of results in Experiment 3, ﬁndings suggest that the need
to listen is not intrinsically aﬀective but intensiﬁes atti-
tudes towards a conversation. In this way, the need to listen
might be annoying or possibly even interesting depending
on attitudes towards the content of the conversation.
This new interpretation of the need-to-listen eﬀect is
consistent with Fortunati’s (2005) observation that trying
to construct the inaudible content of a mobile phone con-
versation is not always annoying, but can sometimes be
a curious, positive experience; ‘a linguistic treasure hunt’
(p. 214). Furthermore, the interpretation has theoretical
support. According to a model proposed by Wilson and
Gilbert (2008), the degree to which people adapt to an
event predicts a decline in the aﬀective response elicited
over time. However, according to this model, people adapt
less to experiences that are diﬃcult to understand. This
was demonstrated in a study in which participants watched
pleasant or unpleasant ﬁlm clips while uttering expressions
of understanding, ‘I see what’s going on here’, or a lack of
understanding, ‘I’m not sure what’s happening’. People in
the latter condition did not simply experience both clips as
more negative, but more intensely depending on the nature
of the clip (Bar-Anan et al. 2009). Listening to a mobile
phone conversation might reﬂect such an experience where
there is a lack of understanding, which, consistent with the
above model, intensiﬁes the particular emotional response
that the conversation provokes. This notion could account
for the present ﬁnding that an IMC was found to be the
most interesting. The lack of uncertainty involved in only
hearing one side of this type of conversation might repre-
sent an experience similar to Fortunati’s ‘treasure hunt’ in
which the bystander is drawn into deciphering the unheard
information, thus making it an enjoyable puzzle due to the
nature of the content. However, the reason for a NMC being
the most annoying conversation in this study is less clear.
One consideration is that for a NMC this same ‘puzzle’
of deciphering the inaudible content provokes the opposite
aﬀective response. Perhaps being drawn into a neutral
conversation in this way is a negative experience as it con-
sequentially heightens the perception of the content as dull
or inane. Although this explanation suggests a somewhat
subjective experience accounts for the real-life problem at
hand, further research using more speciﬁc aﬀective scales,
such as ‘I found the conversation diﬃcult to ignore’ and
‘The conversation was dull’ might shed more light on the
mechanism behind the ‘need to listen’ and how it can be
5.1. Alternative interpretations
Although the present results are considered to add to sup-
port for the need-to-listen explanation, our aim is not to play
down the importance of other factors which undoubtedly
inﬂuence aﬀective responses to mobile phone conversa-
tions. It is important to acknowledge that such aﬀective
responses are not simply determined by the level of under-
standing, or the degree of cognitive eﬀort automatically
engaged as proposed by the ‘need to listen’ explanation.
With regard to other explanations mentioned in the
introduction such as ‘negative attitudes’ and ‘loudness’,
it is quite reasonable to assume that these are important
factors which contribute to annoyance for at least some
conversations. While we have all likely experienced loud
mobile phone conversations which have irritated us at
some point, since NMCs were considered more ‘annoy-
ing’ than respective co-present conversations even when
loudness was controlled, it seems that volume alone is an
incomplete explanation. In terms of ‘negative attitudes’,
Monk et al. (2004a) note the limitation that their ﬁnding
of greater annoyance towards mobile phone conversations
might reﬂect negative attitudes towards mobile phones and
not the need-to-listen. However, the present ﬁnding that
mobile phone conversations were not perceived as uni-
formly annoying across conditions makes this an unlikely
explanation here. Nevertheless, it cannot be ruled out that
negative attitudes towards mobile phones interacted with
the conversational content in this study. Perhaps the NMC
was more annoying not because of the need-to-listen, but
because participants thought that the discussion of such rel-
atively insigniﬁcant, neutral information did not justify a
mobile phone call. This alternative explanation could be
ruled out by performing this one-sided conversation with-
out a mobile phone, using the same co-present one audible
technique employed by Monk et al. (2004b).
Aside from the alternative explanations noted above, it
is important to acknowledge the myriad other variables that
might have inﬂuenced participants’ perceptions of conver-
sations in this study. When asked to indicate their aﬀective
reactions to the conversations, it seems quite probable
that participants were not only drawing upon their percep-
tions of the conversation, but also their evaluations of the
actors themselves. The vast ‘speaker evaluation’ literature
Behaviour & Information Technology 1303
evidences the ease with which characteristics of a speaker
such as dialect (Buck 1968), speech rate (Street et al. 1983)
and number of hesitations (Hosman 1989) can inﬂuence the
impression they convey to an audience. Similarly, it is quite
possible that the physical attributes of actors such as sex,
gender, ethnicity and attractiveness had some bearing on
participants’ ratings of the actual conversations.
In their ‘general process model’, Cargile and Bradac
(2001) expand on the speaker evaluation literature by
implicating not only speaker variables, but also variables
pertaining to the listener. In line with this model, attitudes
goals and the mood of participants at the time might have
inﬂuenced their judgements of conversations in this study.
Furthermore, Campbell (2007) and Dogterom (2011) note
the importance of the setting in mediating the acceptance of
information and communication technology devices such as
mobile phones. According to these authors, the changeable
atmosphere within an environment and the mindset that peo-
ple habitually adopt within that particular environment can
impact upon bystander perceptions. As such, participants’
ratings of the conversations are likely to have been inﬂu-
enced by changes in the waiting room environment over
time, such as ﬂuctuations in the level of general activity
and in the co-occurrence of other happenings which might
have commanded attention away from the actors.
Since mobile phones are considered to be a particu-
larly useful form of communication when people are on
the move, it seems most appropriate to investigate aﬀective
reactions to them in public places. Due to the use of a nat-
ural setting and live actors, it was not possible to control
the inﬂuence of the above variables in the present study.
However, this could be considered to add to the ecological
validity of results, as these factors are likely to interplay
when we overhear mobile phone conversations in real life.
The above variables only detract from the validity of the
results if they did not vary randomly across all conditions
as intended but somehow became associated with a par-
ticular condition, thus interfering with the experimental
manipulations. It is not believed that participant individual
diﬀerences and environmental variables within the setting
would have diﬀerentially inﬂuenced ratings between con-
ditions as participants were selected at random and the six
diﬀerent conversations were distributed throughout the time
period of data collection in no particular pattern.
In contrast, there are several ways in which some of
the above factors might have interfered with the intended
manipulations. Admittedly, the actors were aware of the
aims of the study and could have unknowingly spoken
louder for some conversations (i.e. mobile phone) when the
above variables did not favour the noticeability of the con-
versation. However, the fact that actors were made aware
of this possibility, combined with their extensive practice
at maintaining a consistent speech level and the live feed-
back provided by the volume app, increases conﬁdence that
random variables did not damage the validity of the study.
Perhaps a speech volume measuring device that was not
inﬂuenced by background noise levels would have further
increased conﬁdence in the results, but such an apparatus
was not available to us.
Another potential concern is the fact that diﬀerent actors
were employed for diﬀerent languages. It is possible that
certain actor characteristics might have created an unrepre-
sentative impression of the level of ‘annoyance’ towards
conversations in one of the languages which was not
attributable to the degree of the ‘need to listen’. As noted in
Section 1, underlying attitudes and level of aesthetic appre-
ciation might have also inﬂuenced ratings for the foreign
language. In the absence of practical constraints, several
diﬀerent foreign languages would have been tested in order
to ensure that participant ratings reﬂected their perceptions
of such conversations as ‘unintelligible’ speech and not
perceptions of Mandarin Chinese per se.
In sum, there are shortcomings with the methods
employed here, particularly relating to the lack of control
over the many variables within the natural setting. How-
ever, it is not believed that these variables became anything
more than peripheral factors or ‘noise’ aﬀecting all con-
ditions. As such, the beneﬁts oﬀered by a natural setting
are considered to outweigh the costs and should not detract
from the validity of the results.
5.2. Are mobile phones annoying?
While previous research generally frames mobile phone
conversations in a negative light by assuming that they are
annoying, the present results question this uniform concep-
tualisation. It seems that mobile phone conversations are
not more annoying than co-present conversations when we
cannot understand what is being said or when the con-
tent is ‘intriguing’. However, the results do support the
public concern that mobile phone conversations, at least
those of unremarkable, neutral content, can be annoying
to bystanders. When considering the absolute ratings of
annoyance, overall participants only agreed that the NMC
was annoying. At 4.05, even this conversation is only very
slightly above the neutral rating of 4, indicating that partic-
ipants did not ﬁnd this conversation particularly annoying.
Participants generally disagreed that the CMC was annoy-
ing (3.00), and even less so for the IMC (2.33). Overall, it
seems that participants were not annoyed or at most were
relatively indiﬀerent towards mobile phone conversations
in this context.
The ﬁnding that, in general, mobile phone conversa-
tions were not very annoying in this context does not
mean that the company policies mentioned in Section 1
are unjustiﬁed. Out of consideration for staﬀ and patients
within the setting, the conversations were not intended to
be particularly loud or irritating. While results indicate that
mobile phone conversations can be more annoying even
without such added irritations, it is thus unsurprising that
participants did not ﬁnd them particularly annoying in this
1304 B. Norman and D. Bennett
5.3. Practical applications
Evidence that mobile phones are annoying because of
their one-sided nature and a greater ‘need-to-listen’ does
not suggest a simple practical solution. As suggested ear-
lier, perhaps adjusting mobile phone settings to make the
respondent audible to bystanders would satisfy the desire
to understand the conversation and reduce the distract-
ing need-to-listen. However, this measure could be a form
of annoyance in itself, since such ‘speakerphone’ speech
is often heavily distorted and might also require cogni-
tive eﬀort to understand. Furthermore, the ﬁnding that the
need-to-listen is not inherently annoying suggests that this
measure might be futile for some conversations. Never-
theless, it could be worthwhile to test whether adjusting
mobile phone settings to have both sides of the conver-
sations audible is less annoying to bystanders through the
same methodology employed here.
In terms of content, until considerably stronger evidence
is accumulated for both the need-to-listen eﬀect and the way
it interacts with diﬀerent conversational contents, it would
be unreasonable to suggest practical measures speciﬁcally
against ‘NMCs’. Nevertheless, the present ﬁndings suggest
that people should be aware that even relatively innocu-
ous mobile phone conversations can be annoying to others,
and that the discussion of ‘personal’ matters may partic-
ularly attract the unwelcome interest of bystanders when
communicated by mobile phone.
In conclusion, this study sought to be the ﬁrst piece
of research to examine the need-to-listen explanation of
mobile phone annoyance in a natural public setting. It was
found that, in contrast to participants’ native language,
mobile phone conversations in a foreign language are no
longer perceived as more annoying than an identical co-
present conversation, supporting the need-to-listen expla-
nation over the ‘unpredictable acoustics’ account which
has confounded previous research. The ﬁndings also sug-
gest that the conceptualisation of the need-to-listen eﬀect
solely as a cause of annoyance is overly simplistic, because
listening to a mobile phone conversation of ‘intriguing’
content was not more annoying and might even be consid-
ered an ‘interesting’ distraction. Although it is important
to establish a reason for the growing concern over use of
this technology in public settings, evidence that mobile
phone conversations can be irritating due to the activa-
tion of involuntary attentional mechanisms does not suggest
a simple solution to the problem. Nevertheless, further
research should look into reducing the annoyance caused by
overheard mobile phone conversations speciﬁcally through
reducing the ‘need-to-listen’. Hopefully further research
using a similar methodology will progress our knowledge
of how this technology aﬀects the dynamics of public space,
and help users to enjoy the beneﬁts oﬀered by the mobile
phone without the cost of disturbing others.
Special thanks to Dr Peter Thompson of the University of York
for supervising the project and to Dr Paul Norman and colleagues
for authorising our use of Moorgate Primary Care Centre to
make the study possible. Our sincere thanks to our undergrad-
uate assistants who were kind enough to lend their acting skills.
The authors are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their
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English neutral conversation transcript*
Actor 1: So what’s going on with dinner tonight then, have we got
any stock cubes in and stuﬀ like that?
Actor 2: I think we have but do you want to stop by Tesco and get
some chopped tomatoes on the way back?
Actor 1: Yeah and have we got enough spaghetti and stuﬀ like that
Actor 2: Erm I’m not sure but I’d say get some more anyway to
Actor 1: Yeah yeah I can do that, erm, what times did we say
the ﬁlm starts tonight? Shall I get to yours for about seven did
Actor 2: Yeah seven’s ﬁne, just whenever you’re ready really, I
think the ﬁlms starts at quart to 9 it should give us enough time to
have dinner before.
Actor 1: Yeah yeah so if I er just remember to get tinned tomatoes
and spaghetti then we’re alright aren’t we?
Actor 2: yeah, oh Jacks just text are we still going to his at the
Actor 1: Yeah I’d like to it just depends whether we get the car
ﬁxed or not, you know?
Actor 2: Yeah it’d be a nightmare if we have to get the
Actor 1: Yeah it would, hmm, have we got a minute I just need to
go to the toilet?
Actor 2: Oh yeah I need it too.
English intriguing conversation transcript*
Actor 1: Heard much from Steve?
Actor 2: No but did you hear about lottery Sophie?
Actor 1: Yeah I’m so jealous about all that money, but no what
Actor 2: You’ll never believe it.
Actor 1: No go on just tell me.
Actor 2: You will never believe it.
Actor 1: How can I believe it if you don’t tell me, don’t leave me
Actor 2: Well. Word has been going around, that her boyfriend has
been going around if you know what I mean.
Actor 1: Noooo, shy man Sam?
Actor 2: Yeah he hasn’t been so shy of late it seems!
Actor 1: What’s he been doing exactly?
Actor 2: Well he’s been seeing this girl for over a year and now
she’s won the lottery he’s sacked oﬀ this other girl.
Actor 1: What and Sophie doesn’t even know that he’s been doing
Actor 2: Not that I know of but I’m sure it’ll all come out in the
Actor 1: Too right, anyway hmm, have we got a minute I just need
to go to the toilet?
Actor 2: Oh yeah I need it too.
*For the mobile phone conversations only the lines of actor 1 were