EVER felt your phone buzz, and checked for a notification that you'd only imagined? Found yourself trying to click on photo print-out to get a better look, felt frustrated as you absent mindedly try to swipe your traditional television set or heard your child talking about "pausing" a real-life game to come to the dinner table?

Welcome to our 21st-century technological muscle memory; a phenomenon that experts say is now deeply engrained in the way we interact with the world around us.

A growing number of researchers and psychologists claim that while the behaviour that we notice, such as "phantom buzzing" or pinch-zooming real-world objects, may simply be a response to living on automatic pilot in an increasingly technology driven world, there could be a range of consequences to this real-world-digital overlap, such as dangerous driving and altering how we communicate.

Loading article content

Phantom phone buzzing – the vibration of a non-existent notification from a text, email or social media app that you think you feel from your phone in your pocket – is now reported by up to 90 per cent of the population, according to some research.

Dr Larry Rosen, the author of iDisorder, whose research has shown we now check our phones every six minutes, claims the phenomenon is caused by the a misinterpretation of an impulse such as an itch resulting from the anxiety we feel about being in constant touch with technology. He claims that changes in our brain's pathways are resulting in stress, sleeplessness, and compulsive behaviours.

However, others claim that the "digital ticks" that we have developed, including "swiping" non-digital media are a natural response to learning to master technology.

Robert Rosenberger, associate professor of philosophy, at Georgia Institute of Technology, who has written widely on the issue, said: "I think that we're deeply shaped by our technologies."

He compares our tech "habits" as learned skills such as driving on automatic pilot, where we break, change gear or turn corners without thinking about the movements our bodies make as we do so.

"One way to think about the the quirks of our contemporary experiences with technologies – the phantom vibrations, the attempt to pinch-zoom the printed picture – is as a side effect of these habits that we develop with our devices," he added. "We grow so accustomed to interacting with the world through our technologies a certain way that we can sometimes do things automatically even when the context isn't exactly appropriate."

The phenomenon is not new, he argues, making comparisons with the way we will try to find our glasses only to remember they are wearing them. But he claims there can be serious real world consequences.

"With new technologies like smartphones and wearables and touchscreens and whatever, we're simply seeing new side effects. These side effects are sometimes harmless. But sometimes they can be a real problem, for example, the case of distracted driving where we might be habitually inclined to pull out our phone and read a text even though it's actually dangerous to ourselves and others. We can be pulled by habit to focus most on the conversation at the expense of paying attention to road, since that's what we normally do on the phone.

"Another example is people looking at their phones while in face-to-face conversation with someone. Through habit we may be pulled to that text message, even though it might not be appropriate or polite to divide our attention while talking to someone."

Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, professor of Business Psychology at University College London, who has also researched our growing attachment to technology also claims that our behaviour is part of natural evolution.

"It is almost impossible to imagine what life was like 20 years ago when we were mostly offline," he said. "All of our interactions with people and problems are now mediated by technology. It is just the way we evolved: humans have always used technology to master the world: first fire, then weapons, then the industrial revolution and now the digital revolution."

But he also claims that we have become highly vested in technology; some have reporting personifying devices – an issue explored by Spike Jonze 13 film, Her, is which a man falls in love with an intelligent computer operating system with a female voice.

"We are sexually invested in our phones because they create excitement and arousal and when we don't have them we feel empty," said Chamorro-Premuzic. "Our phones already carry our digital reputation but most of this information is just sold to marketeers and soon it will be recruiters. We are unaware of it."

Grant Gibson, deputy managing director at Bright Signals, a Glasgow-based digital content agency, describes himself as an early adopter of technology and uses a raft of technology in his home including a Hive system from Scottish Gas, a Netatmo weather station to show indoor and outdoor temperatures, Chromecast to beam phone content from iPlayer or Youtube to any room in the house and garden security cameras.

His photos, music and videos are stored on Synology system, accessed via an app from anywhere in the world, and his car is networked so he can check on its battery at all times.

He recognises that he is susceptible to a range of digital ticks and claims he is now aiming to live a lower-tech life, in part due to the control that he feels he is inadvertently passing on to the global corporations who can access his data.

"The trigger for me to cut back on this 'ever smartening world' was when I caught myself asking my son to be quiet for a few minutes while I replied to a Facebook message on my phone," he said. "That realisation drove me to audit my phone usage and I was horrified – according to my phone, I was using it for an average of four hours a day.

"I considered leaving the smartphone in a drawer at that point and switching back to a 'drug dealer style' retro Nokia. The only thing that stopped me is that I couldn't find a simple phone that could take good pictures. My compromise was to turn off all phone notifications and delete a lot of my time-wasting apps."