Here’s an odd fact: The human right ear is typically dominant when it comes to listening to verbal stimuli, probably because the brain’s left hemisphere is better at processing verbal information. So far, the majority of research looking at ear preference in human communication has taken place in controlled laboratory settings, but an Italian research team tested people’s ear preference in a noisy nightclub and found that which ear you talk to actually makes a difference.
In their first study, researchers found that 72 percent of interactions occurred on the right side of the listener — results consistent with previous research. In the second study, the researchers approached clubbers spontaneously, mumbled something meaningless, and waited to see if the subjects offered either their left or their right ear. They then asked for a cigarette. Fifty-eight percent offered their right ear, but in terms of getting a cigarette, there were no clear gains, regardless which ear had been addressed. In their third and final study, however, the researchers spoke intentionally to either the clubbers’ right or left ear, asking for a cigarette. To their surprise, when they talked into a clubber’s right ear, they obtained significantly more cigarettes than when they addressed the left ear. These results, according to the authors, clearly confirm a right ear/left hemisphere advantage for verbal communication, and a distinct specialization of the two halves of the brain when it comes to approach and avoidance behavior.