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Need a Favor? Talk To My Right Ear 288

Posted by samzenpus
from the bene-gesserit-tricks dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "The Telegraph reports that scientists have found that if you want to get someone to do something, ask them in their right ear. Known as the 'right ear advantage,' scientists believe it is because information received through the right ear is processed by the left hand side of the brain which is more logical and better at deciphering verbal information than the right side of the brain. 'Talk into the right ear you send your words into a slightly more amenable part of the brain,' say researchers. The team, led by Dr. Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University of Chieti in central Italy, observed the behavior of hundreds of people in three nightclubs across the city where they intentionally addressed 176 people in either their right or their left ear when asking for a cigarette. They obtained significantly more cigarettes when they made their request in a person's right ear compared with their left. 'These results seem to be consistent with the hypothesized specialization of right and left hemispheres,' say researchers. 'We can also see this tendency when people use the phone, most will naturally hold it to their right ear.'"

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Need a Favor? Talk To My Right Ear

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  • by KenMcM (1293074) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:24AM (#28462755)
    ...and I thought it was because I was right-handed!
    • I hold my phone to my left ear with my left hand, despite being right-handed, and probably always have. This is no surprise as it leaves my right hand free to navigate the mouse or type on the keyboard. Not rocket science.

      • This is no surprise as it leaves my right hand free to navigate the mouse or type on the keyboard.

        ... or the joystick...

      • by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968&gmail,com> on Thursday June 25, 2009 @07:18AM (#28464667) Journal

        Same here, but for some reason when playing baseball I always batted lefty even though I am right handed. Batting right handed never "felt right" to me.

        Of course batting left handed I seemed to nail the pitcher in the nuts quite often and while he was in a fetal position holding his nuts it was trivial to get to first base, but I'm sure that was just a coincidence.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by MetalPhalanx (1044938)

          It might also have to do with your master eye. Just as you have a master hand, you actually focus more out of one eye, with the other providing mostly triangulation data (and of course extending your FOV, etc.). For MOST people, your master eye is the same as your master hand. There are some people who have opposites. There is a fairly simple test to determine which eye is your master, if you are curious google will explain how.

          I'm personally right handed with a left master eye. When I'm doing anything that

    • "Talk to the hand"
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by houghi (78078)

      I am right handed and sometimes hold my phone to my left ear, so my right hand can be occupied in another way. Wait, that sounds gross. Uh, I was, uh, I was talking about writing things down. HONESTLY!

    • by CFD339 (795926)

      Clearly this is a flawed study. It doesn't take my personal use case into account and therefore has no validity whatsoever. I will, of course, begin to excoriate the authors of the study and make fun of anyone who agrees with it.

      • by Mr_eX9 (800448)

        Dr. Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli from the University of Chieti in central Italy, observed the behavior of hundreds of people in three nightclubs across the city where they intentionally addressed 176 people in either their right or their left ear when asking for a cigarette.

        Yes, it is a flawed study. Anybody who believes this *should* be made fun of.

    • by DJRumpy (1345787)
      Either I missed it or the article didn't specify, but it seems like hearing would be processed in a central part of the brain (either left or right), and not each ear individually handled by one side of the brain and vice versa. This doesn't make much sense to me.
  • Seems like the classic example. More people are right handed then left handed, left handed people are more assertive.. who knows.
  • I'm surprised (Score:2, Interesting)

    by soundhack (179543)

    this isn't common knowledge by now, I noticed this years ago when I started using cell phones (especially the old analog ones). With a lot of noise, I could hear the person on the other end better if I held the cell phone next to my right ear.

    I wonder if handedness has any influence at all?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I remember that, years ago, we used to all say that American males were more deaf in their left ears from driving around with the windows open. Italians would be in the same situation. If this were true, then a test in the UK should find more bias in the opposite direction due to driving right-hand-drive cars.

  • Unconvinced (Score:5, Insightful)

    by dexmachina (1341273) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:28AM (#28462791)
    Correct the data for laterality (right hand preference in majority of the population), then maybe the results will be interesting. Even then, the explanation is bull. Unlike sight, the auditory system doesn't work cross-hemispherically. Sound from the right side is carried by the auditory nerve into the right portion of the temporal lobe.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Panzor (1372841)

      >Unlike sight, the auditory system doesn't work cross-hemispherically.

      This article just got owned. No more comments needed.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Except for the fact that the auditory system most certainly works bilaterally. The parent is wrong -- auditory fibers decussate while still in the brainstem before projecting to the medial geniculate.

    • Re:Unconvinced (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Virtual_Raider (52165) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:33AM (#28463119) Homepage

      Correct the data for laterality (right hand preference in majority of the population), then maybe the results will be interesting. Even then, the explanation is bull. Unlike sight, the auditory system doesn't work cross-hemispherically. Sound from the right side is carried by the auditory nerve into the right portion of the temporal lobe.

      What if it doesn't have to do with which ear is connected to what side of the brain but it is instead a visual cue (which is brain-sided) being picked up upon? If I stando to your right to talk to you, I might be having a psychological impact rather than a mechanical one.

      What irritates me about so many of these types of research is that they seem to assume as a given that only because they concentrate in one part of a system this narrow focus automagically translates into isolation of the subject. How can you account for any other influences? Even if the subject is blind-folded, if the examiner is close enough the subject could still perceive the body heat. What if they wear ear phones with the balance tilted to the right or left, how do you account for the psychological factor of hearing on your preferred side over a purely mechanical explanation?

      I think the phenomenon is interesting and worth studying, but the conclusion seems pretty suspect IMHO.

      • by TheLink (130905)

        Yeah I think my own bullshit is better:

        http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=1280919&cid=28464547 [slashdot.org]

        Basically right handed people are more comfortable with strangers approaching them from their stronger (and tougher) side, and thus more likely to give them stuff.

        I suggest that the decision to give a cigarette to a stranger has little to do with logic and more to do with emotions and gut feel. Once you understand what they want, whether you give it to them is based on your emotions and gut feel. If it's a dec

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      That is incorrect. The ascending fibers from the cochlear nuclei have decussating and non-decussating fiber bundles. The 'auditory nerve [sic]' is a far more complicated circuit than your post suggests.

    • Does it matter?

      The real point here is that if I stand on someone's right side they're more likely to do what I tell them.

      This gets me one step closer to that volcano lair filled with minions.

    • by ceoyoyo (59147)

      Most evidence indicates the auditory system works in a similar way to the visual system - sound from both ears is integrated, then processed spatially, with the right field mostly mapped onto the left hemisphere. The audio information from the right ear isn't necessarily processed preferentially by the left hemisphere, but sounds that originate on the right side probably are. So it's not unreasonable that talking into someone's right ear or holding a phone to your right ear would have the effect described

    • The Stroop effect is when you read words that are the names of colours, but the letters are coloured differently. You can read out the words with the right eye, but change over to the left eye and you will start saying the colours of the letters and not the words. Both sides of the brain get the same signal, but the nearer side gets it first and tends to jump in with its interpretation, which may not be the one you are wanting.

      If you have a voice saying 'high' or 'low' in a high or low voice, then you ca

  • Double Blind? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by twoshortplanks (124523) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:32AM (#28462815) Homepage
    This article suggests that the experiments were conducted by the very people who were proposing the hypothesis. That's not very scientific - this should have been double blind. Any number of factors can effect the success rate of getting the cigarettes - including if the researchers believed they were likely to be more successful.
    • True. If you believed your hypothesis was correct, you might subconsciously alter the way you spoke that would alter the results. Sounds like a self fulfilling prophecy to me.
    • Re:Double Blind? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Miseph (979059) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @12:54AM (#28462933) Journal

      That also strikes me as a terribly unscientific test... even in Italy, not everyone smokes, and even the ones who do may be out of cigarettes or in a location not conducive to smoking. did they also record the number of people who gave logical, but negative (ie. "I don't have any"), responses? What if they didn't ask for cigarettes until the end of the night, so they were in short supply?

      What if people just got sick of them mooching and said no out of spite? As a former smoker, I can reasonably state that most are pretty generous to a point, but once you cross it they run out of sympathy very quickly... bumming cigarettes off of everyone you see can get you to that point very quickly.

      Did they make sure to get an even mix of responses for males asking males, males asking females, females asking females and females asking males? Did they make sure not to have the person asking in left ears be the one with no social skills and bad breath? When I was a smoker, a cute girl had a MUCH better shot at getting a cigarette from me than, say, some whiny dude... given that this was done at nightclubs, and what many people actually go to nightclubs to (attemp to) do, this is actually a pretty major consideration that I somehow doubt they took into consideration.

      And what the hell is with that sample size? 176 people? You went to 3 Italian nightclubs and could only find 176 smokers to ask for cigarettes between them? At least pretend you're trying to gather a statistically significant number of responses.

      I'm not necessarily sure that they shouldn't have run any experiments simply because it is their hypothesis... but if they're going to claim some sort of success for it then they certainly need a better experiment than asking people for cigarettes at a nightclub. Honestly though, if nobody ever did scientists to test their own hypotheses, we'd probably still be in the Aristotelian phase of scientific concept.

      • What if they didn't ask for cigarettes until the end of the night, so they were in short supply?

        Wouldn't this affect both ears equally? (Unless the scientists did something terribly stupid, such as asking into the right ear in the beginning of the night, and into the left ear at the end of the night)

        bumming cigarettes off of everyone you see can get you to that point very quickly.

        Again, easy to control for, by making sure you randomize which ear to use over time.

        Did they make sure to get an even mix of responses for males asking males, males asking females, females asking females and females asking males? Did they make sure not to have the person asking in left ears be the one with no social skills and bad breath?

        Unless they "assigned" a specific ear to each person asking, this should not matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BlackPignouf (1017012)

      Exactly!

      To the left ear : "Yo, gimme some cigarette, fat bitch! Vaffanculo!"
      To the right ear : "Sorry to interrupt, would you please consider giving me one cigarette? Grazie mille!"

  • by gmuslera (3436) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:03AM (#28462977) Homepage Journal
    At least this one is nicer than the brain melting suffered from the ones that read the Dune prequels.
  • by BlackSabbath (118110) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:11AM (#28463015) Homepage
    This is why successful leaders tend to prefer advice from their "right hand man". Who listens to their "left hand man"? No one - that's who!
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by IBBoard (1128019)

      Does that mean that Christianity has nothing to worry about, because no-one is ever going to listen to that devil who sits on their left shoulder? ;)

    • by Mad-cat (134809)

      This is why successful leaders tend to prefer advice from their "right hand man". Who listens to their "left hand man"? No one - that's who!

      I guess their left hand man is busy listening to them.

    • This is an interesting thought. In a (US) military formation, the higher ranking people are to the far right of the formation (if you're standing in it), so the person to their left is lower ranking. You speak into his right ear. He's already compelled by rank and respect for your position to follow your directions, but this might add just a little more to it. Probably not.. but who knows.
  • dextrocardia (Score:3, Interesting)

    by robinesque (977170) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @01:45AM (#28463185)
    My girlfriend is left handed, BUT she has dextrocardia, a condition in which her heart is on the left side of her chest. Her liver is also mirrored. Persons with this condition often show mirroring in all of their organs, including the brain. She talks with the phone against her left ear...which I suppose would make sense according to this study.
    • by Culture20 (968837)
      dextrocardia == heart on right side. Total body mirroring is a result of being flipped 4-dimensionally (like a 2D person flipped in 3D before being put back in their 2D world). Was her last boyfriend prone to disappearing from closed rooms?
  • 'We can also see this tendency when people use the phone, most will naturally hold it to their right ear.'

    Right, that couldn't possibly have anything to do with the fact that most people are right handed, could it?
  • Riiiight... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fizzl (209397) <fizzl@f[ ]l.net ['izz' in gap]> on Thursday June 25, 2009 @02:03AM (#28463267) Homepage Journal

    The method wasn't very scientificy, sample size was small and they skewed the results by "knowing" what kind of results they want.
    I would have invented way more elaborate scheme to get an excuse to blow my grant money to nightclubbin

    • by Fizzl (209397)

      Oh and the image on the article is 120% superfluous. Fucking /. 2.0.14.b1.

    • by Ma8thew (861741)

      You are drawing this conclusion, not from the article itself, but second hand, from a journalist, who may have talked to someone who has read the article. I might be able to discuss some of your concerns better, but the article [springerlink.com] costs $34. However, as someone with a passing knowledge of statistics, I can say your outright rejection of sample size is unscientific. A small sample size may be counteracted by very strong results, and without seeing the hypothesis tests the authors of the article doubtless perfor

  • That news is so old, I read about it in a magazine in 2002. And back then, it was said that it had been know for a long time.

  • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare&gmail,com> on Thursday June 25, 2009 @03:19AM (#28463635) Homepage Journal

    it puts this story in hilarious contrast:

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article3817270.ece [timesonline.co.uk]

    If you're thinking of asking your beloved to marry you, make sure that you utter your declaration of love into his or her left ear; it may increase your chances of hearing a heart-lifting "yes". New research suggests that declarations of love, jokes, or words of anger are best remembered when they are heard through the left ear, while instructions, directions and non-emotional messages have more impact on the right side.

    It is all to do with how our brains process information. Although the left and right hemispheres, or sides, of the brain are similar structures, they have specialised functions. The left side, it is suggested, is more logic-based and dominant, while the right is the more imaginative side, more visual, intuitive, emotional and spatially aware. Because the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, the left ear has been shown in some research to be the route to the emotional side of the brain, and the right ear to the non-emotional, logical side.

    i don't know how true all of this is, but there's all sorts of anecdotes like this

    for example: women usually have their left breast a little larger than their right breast. regardless of which is larger, and regardless of handedness, women, and all simians in fact, and even breastless fathers, tend to hold their babies with their right arms to their left breast. this places the babies head on the left side of the body, putting the baby closer to the left side sensory inputs, which are governed by the right side of the brain, the more emotional side, thus establishing more of an emotional bond

    so i don't know about all this ear stuff, but there seems to be something, at best subtle, that is real about side preference and emotions and logic

  • I guess they were in a night club, which somewhat affects logic, but they say:

    the left hand side of the brain which is more logical and better at deciphering verbal information

    and then say:

    They obtained significantly more cigarettes when they made their request in a person's right ear compared with their left.

    What part of giving away one of your cigarettes to some cheap-ass bum who can't afford their own is logical? Unless, I guess, they had a hot woman asking guys, at which point they'll be hoping that a s

  • Old Knowledge (Score:2, Interesting)

    by tgzuke (737692)
    Right-ear advantage has been well-studied before (see Wikipedia's page on dichotic listening [wikipedia.org] tests for details). I remember it being presented as fact in my intro linguistics course 10 years ago. I recall that class also noting, however, that people who learn tonal languages such as Mandarin as a first language have a left-ear advantage instead [citation needed].
  • ... and they probably slept through most of the day.

    Anyway, great research, as this would explain why I'm such an A.H. on the phone - I hold it to my left ear.

  • Left-handed (Score:3, Funny)

    by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Thursday June 25, 2009 @04:22AM (#28463943) Homepage

    I hold my phone to the ear that doesn't require me to reach around my fucking face.

    But meh. Maybe that's why I'm so short with stupid people on the telephone.

  • How do you ask someone in a noisy nightclub "specifically in one ear" insuring that the other ear is not hearing ? .. and how do they know that the results are specific to sound and not visual ?.. perhaps someone approaching you from your right side makes you less defensive than from your left side.
  • by yogibaer (757010) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @07:10AM (#28464635)
    If "una bella figura" like in the picture stepped up to me in an nightclub and asked for a cigarette I would start smoking right then and there. (Somebody already said it: Take your grant money nightclubbing)
  • by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @07:29AM (#28464697) Journal

    ...and this EVEN explains why most men do the driving - our wives, knowing the secret right ear thing, prefer to sit on the right, making us drive and simultaneously compelling us to do their bidding! ...or it could just be some bullshit theory where the data was cherry picked to make some sort of pop science conclusion.

  • Studies also found that if you want a no, talking to the hand is the best option!

  • I guess that's why I keep annoying people at work. I don't hear much with my right ear as I had a hearing loss on that side years ago.
    Maybe that's also why my ex left me. She could never get any favours!

  • by honkycat (249849) on Thursday June 25, 2009 @02:55PM (#28470113) Homepage Journal

    It may be too late in the discussion for this to get any notice, but I have access to the journal where this research was published and I thought I'd share a few details. In summary, it is much better science than the /. crowd seems to think, the researchers have done their homework, and I haven't seen any posts here that raise serious methodological issues that are not somehow addressed in the work. This wasn't just some guys hanging out in a night club asking for cigarettes.

    Basically, they had three studies. The first was purely observational -- they "unobtrusively" observed interactions between people in the nightclub that started face-to-face and noted whether these progressed to talking in the right ear or the left ear. They adjusted for gender of speaker/listener, and other bias.

    The second study (which they refer to as "quasi-experimental") involved a female aware of the study but unaware of the hypothesis who would approach subjects (equal # male and female) face-to-face and say something unintelligible. If the subject turned one ear, she would then ask for a cigarette in the ear they offered. She always asked the same question, and only asked people whom she had not seen smoking (to prevent social effects that might bias people toward sharing).

    In the third study (also "quasi-experimental"), which is the one referred to most here, the female (still unaware of the hypothesis) now approached subjects from the front, but instead of allowing the subject to choose the ear, she selected left or right ear. Again, equal numbers of males/females were approached, and used the same question each time and still only approached subjects she had not seen smoking.

    The second and third studies were performed at different times, so there's no effect of people getting sick of this chick bumming cigs, and there were a number of other controls. In the first study, there was a conclusion that there is significant bias toward offering a particular ear. In the second, there was no significant trend for complying with the request for a cigarette in right vs left ear. In the third, several trends were found -- the main result announced in the thread that the right ear resulted in more positive outcomes, and also (not surprisingly) that men were more likely to offer a cigarette to the female when asked.

    Anyway, this is not junk science. There's a lot more to the study than the paragraph in the Telegraph told you about.

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