New research demonstrates humans' right ear preference for listening

Jun 23, 2009
Human ear. by David Benbennick, via Wikipedia

We humans prefer to be addressed in our right ear and are more likely to perform a task when we receive the request in our right ear rather than our left. In a series of three studies, looking at ear preference in communication between humans, Dr. Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University "Gabriele d'Annunzio" in Chieti, Italy, show that a natural side bias, depending on hemispheric asymmetry in the brain, manifests itself in everyday human behavior. Their findings were just published online in Springer's journal Naturwissenschaften.

One of the best known asymmetries in humans is the right ear dominance for listening to verbal , which is believed to reflect the brain's left hemisphere superiority for processing verbal information. However, until now, the majority of studies looking at ear preference in human communication have been controlled laboratory studies and there is very little published observational evidence of spontaneous ear dominance in everyday .

Tommasi and Marzoli's three studies specifically observed ear preference during social interactions in noisy night club environments. In the first study, 286 clubbers were observed while they were talking, with loud music in the background. In total, 72 percent of interactions occurred on the right side of the listener. These results are consistent with the right ear preference found in both laboratory studies and questionnaires and they demonstrate that the side bias is spontaneously displayed outside the laboratory.

In the second study, the researchers approached 160 clubbers and mumbled an inaudible, meaningless utterance and waited for the subjects to turn their head and offer either their left of their right ear. They then asked them for a cigarette. Overall, 58 percent offered their right ear for listening and 42 percent their left. Only women showed a consistent right-ear preference. In this study, there was no link between the number of cigarettes obtained and the ear receiving the request.

In the third study, the researchers intentionally addressed 176 clubbers in either their right or their left ear when asking for a cigarette. They obtained significantly more cigarettes when they spoke to the clubbers' right ear compared with their left.

According to the authors, taken together, these results confirm a right ear/left hemisphere advantage for verbal communication and distinctive specialization of the two halves of the brain for approach and avoidance behavior.

They conclude: "Our studies corroborate the idea of a common ancestry - in humans and other species - of lateralized behavior during social interactions, not only for species-specific vocal communication, but also for affective responses."

More information: Marzoli D & Tommasi L (2009). Side biases in humans (Homo sapiens); three ecological studies on hemispheric asymmetries. Naturwissenschaften. DOI 10.1007/s00114-009-0571-4

Source: Springer

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User comments : 8

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5 / 5 (4) Jun 23, 2009
Ummmm..... isn't that a picture of a LEFT ear????
1 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2009
Might this have political implications?

When the left espouses factoids the population has become, well, we all see the implications. But when you speak right then you are listened too. For example Obama claiming 95% of American's will not receive tax increases are likely responsible for a few percentage points in his victory. Of course it was just babble coming from the left which is why in his first hundred days levying new taxes on products... heck in the first year we will all see the ramifications of 1.8 trillion increase in indebtedness. :-)
not rated yet Jun 23, 2009
Ummmm..... isn't that a picture of a LEFT ear????

Yeah it is
1 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2009
Is that the advantage of being a 'right hand man'? To maximise verbal influence one would stand to the right hand side of another person so as to 'have their ear'.
1 / 5 (1) Jun 23, 2009
I have read something similar about this in the Kama Sutra, the Ananga Ranga or The Perfumed Garden, but too lazy to recheck guys and ladies please do.
not rated yet Jun 23, 2009
I am left handed, left eyed, and left eared. I'm such a freak!!!

Actually, it's always been kinda cool.
not rated yet Jun 24, 2009
Was there the control for left- vs. right-handedness? People might have felt more in-control of their situation, thus more likely felt good & in mood of making the favor.

I thought that while seeing this article in the list. Came to look whether I guess right, but no control for handedness is told. (Fazer is telling of his/her personal case. That is fitting to the hypothesis of handedness.)

Thus, that is not necessarily the thing for selling a single-side music gadget, because people might buy the opposite, if I'm right. They/we might reserve our active/favorable-hand side for social-interaction, while the opposite might serve well for personally-listening.
not rated yet Jun 28, 2009

Why go to all that trouble. All you have to do is go somewhere public and watch people talking on their cell phones. No need for mumbling in peoples ear and such.

Was there the control for left- vs. right-handedness?

I am left handed, and left "eared", and always thought it was all about whether you were right or left handed.

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