While plenty of laboratory studies have been conducted examining human ear listening preferences, few have been conducted “in the wild.” New research done in nightclubs suggests that most people prefer to listen with their right ear.
In their series of three studies looking at ear preference in communication between two people, 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.
One of the best known asymmetries in humans is the right ear dominance for listening to verbal stimuli, which is believed to reflect the brain’s left hemisphere superiority for processing verbal information.
The three new studies specifically observed ear preference during social interactions in noisy nightclub 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 or 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.
Their findings were just published online in the journal Naturwissenschaften.