June 23, 2009

Want something? Ask in the right ear

People are more likely to perform a task when they receive the request in their right ear rather than left, Italian researchers found.

Dr. Luca Tommasi and Daniele Marzoli of the University Gabriele d'Annunzio" in Chieti, Italy, showed that a natural side bias, depending on hemispheric asymmetry in the brain, manifests itself in everyday human behavior.

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.

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. Women showed a consistent right-ear preference.

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

Their findings were published online in the journal Naturwissenschaften.