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Messages Heard Better in the Right Ear

Noisy nightclub experiments show a bias against left-side listening

FRIDAY, June 26 (HealthDay News) -- Next time you want to get your message across in a noisy club, aim for the right ear.

That's the lesson from three studies that may prove people's preference for listening with their right ear.

Researchers from the University Gabriele D'Annunzio in Chieti, Italy, found that the majority of patrons in a noisy club responded to requests for cigarettes if they could hear the question more clearly on their right side.

In fact, testers obtained the most cigarettes when they spoke directly into the right ear.

Scientists have long known about right-ear dominance, which reflects the brain's left hemisphere superiority for processing verbal information. But earlier studies took place in laboratoy settings and didn't involve everyday human interactions -- until now.

Taking advantage of the real-world ambience of a noisy nightclub, researchers Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli took notes as 286 patrons went about their business with loud music blaring in the background. The majority of folks engaged in conversation listened with their right ear.

In the second study, the researchers approached 160 clubbers, mumbled an inaudible, meaningless sentence and waited for them to turn their head and offer their left or right ear. And in the third study, researchers intentionally spoke to 176 people in the right or left ear, asking for a cigarette. They got far more of what they wanted when they addressed the right ear directly.

"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," the study authors wrote.

The findings were published recently online in the journal Naturwissenschaften.

More information

Find out more about hearing at the University of California Santa Cruz.

-- Peter West

SOURCE: Springer publications, news release, June 23, 2009

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