Have you felt your phone vibrating in your pocket, only to look down and check, and be met with a blank screen? Or perhaps you've perceived the tell-tale buzz of an incoming message, only to realise that your phone isn't in your pocket at all, but lying innocently by itself on the other side of the room?

If so, you're not alone: so-called phantom phone alerts are a growing phenomenon among smartphone users, and scientists believe it could be a sign of mobile phone addiction.

Phantom communication experiences, often referred to as phantom vibration syndrome, is characterised as the false perception of your mobile device ringing, vibrating or receiving a notification.

Scientists now believe how often smartphone users experience this phenomenon is associated with their dependency on technology, which can in turn be linked to an individual's personality type.

In a study involving 766 students conducted by the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, 384 women and 382 men were asked to complete a personality test designed to assess particular traits such as openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, emotional stability and neuroticism.

They were then asked to fill out a survey called the Mobile Phone Problem Use Scale. This presented participants with statements designed to assess how dependent they were on their mobile phone, such as "I have used my mobile phone to make myself feel better when I was feeling down", "I have used my mobile phone to talk to others when I was feeling isolated", and "I feel anxious when I have to turn off my phone".

Participants were asked to note down how frequently they experienced phantom phone notifications. The results showed that those who rated higher for conscientiousness and emotional stability scored a lower phone dependency, and where therefore less likely to experience phantom ringing, vibrating or notifications.

"When people have addictions, there's a phenomenon in which they are hypersensitive to stimuli associated with a rewarding stimulus," said Daniel Kruger, from the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research. "This study provides some real insight and maybe some evidence that people can have a real dependency on cellphone [mobile phone] use."

While the personality tests showed women to be more conscientious, extroverted and agreeable than men, they were more likely to show signs of smartphone dependency.

The researchers believe the findings could be used to further insight into links between mobile phone addiction and mental health. However, previous attempts to add this research to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders have failed.

"I think these findings are something that can inform the discussion – and certainly, it pushes in the direction of saying, 'Hey, whether you want to call it dependency or addiction, it's real, it's important, and we should be paying attention to this," said Kruger.