You get better results asking for stuff when you talk to the right ear

Researchers at University "Gabriele d'Annunzio" in Chieti, Italy have published the results of three cleverly designed studies that indicate that humans are more apt to act on information heard through their right ears than through their left.
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. 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 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. 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.

Need Something? Talk To My Right Ear


  1. You call zis zience?! Zese Italian stuuudints are going out clubbingk in ze name off zience?! Acht! Vut a vurld!

  2. They could have surveyed cell phone side preference — I’d be interested to know if others share a preference for one ear or the other when talking to friends, versus when talking to people who don’t matter (like work-related calls).

  3. then there are those like a very close friend of mine, who offers up his left ear, because a car accident left him with about 25% of his hearing in his right ear.

    Point being to not make assumptions based on purely random encounters…sounds like a good justification to spend time in a nightclub bumming cigs…all in the name of science, of course.

  4. Maybe this is why I use the right ear even if the left hears a little better…

    I suggested a really interesting article, I hope it get published here soon…

  5. Ear preference is probably dependent on handedness. People tend to use one-ear devices like phones on the same side as their dominant hand. They end up training their preferred ear to listen to more difficult sounds such as phone conversations, and so that could account for more responses when speaking into the subjects’ right ears, because right handers outnumber left handers ten to one.

    So, unless the researchers were factoring the subjects’ dominant hands into the data, they might have been only measuring their handedness.

    The same effect influences which eye people will prefer to look through a telescope or microscope. It will more often be the eye they use to aim a rifle, and again, that depends on being right or left handed.

  6. Is it not customary politeness to talk to someones right side? Just like a handshake?

    “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.”

    If I couldn’t hear someone properly and wanted to be polite about the situation, I would lean to my left and assume they would be moving towards theirs as I asked them to repeat themselves.

  7. as a confirmed misanthrope I always use my left ear. You human scum aren’t getting anything out of me.

  8. @5

    “Ear preference is probably dependent on handedness. People tend to use one-ear devices like phones on the same side as their dominant hand.”

    I use my non-dominant hand (and ear on the same side) because it frees my dominant hand for taking notes or doodling while on the phone. Mostly doodling.

  9. I have a very slight congenital hearing impairment in my left ear (both are better than an average person’s, but the left is worse than the right due to obstruction), and so I have a distinct tendency to use the right one.

    Without corresponding data on both handedness, and hearing for each ear, these experiments seem rather worthless, as the results could be caused by any number of very different things.

  10. especially true for me as my left ear is deaf LMAO
    Don’t need a scientist to come to the same conclusion…

  11. I wonder if they’re just finding people are mostly right-eared as in “right-handed.”

    By way of (lame) proof (due to it being a sample size of 1), I’m left-handed and very sure I’m left-eared.

    I hold phones against my left ear and when circumstances force me to use my right (ie if I’m holding things and only my right arm is free), I find I just don’t … understand as well. It’s not a hearing thing, I find I have to think harded to grasp what people are saying.

    Invariably I’ll juggle things and hold the phone across my face to I can listen with my left.

  12. Most people are born with a right ear advantage however nearly all of us catch up with our left as our brains develop by about the age of ten.

    Not so relevant, but interesting nonetheless.

  13. So – in Italy one can still smoke in clubs! That is the most revelatory information to emerge from this research.

  14. This is very interesting. It reminds me of studies done on split-brain patients. They’ve done all sorts of amazing studies where, for instance, people could only solve logic puzzles or interpret stories if presented to one eye instead of the other.

    Unfortunately here the people are not split-brain, so all the information should be traveling through the interhemispheric connections. It’s possible, though, that communication between hemispheres isn’t always great.

    The handedness idea is interesting, but any relationship could be correlation, not causation. For instance, are right-handed people also right footed? Maybe. But if so, they probably aren’t right footed because they are right-handed. Botgh probably derive from the same underlying cause. So while it’s possible that people are right-eared just because they pick up phones with their right hand, it may be that they just happen to be innately right-eared to begin with.

    I’ve certainly noticed my preference to listening to phones with my right ear — I have to concentrate a lot harder if it’s my left ear.

    @ Anonymous #3: “Point being to not make assumptions based on purely random encounters…“:

    Errr… you may want to take a look at articles regarding “science,” “statistics” and “significance.” This study isn’t about anecdotal evidence from random encounters, and your friend being deaf in one ear is pretty much irrelevant in a study involving about 600 participants.

  15. One other note: Broca’s area, the main region in the brain for dealing with language, is in the left hemisphere. Assuming that ears are like hands and eyes, that is, signals from the right ear go to the left hemisphere and visa versa, signals from the right ear may have an easier time getting to Broca’s area and related regions, without having the traverse additional interhemispheric connections. So this could be a causal explanation.

    Edit: D’oh, read the article Sam. This is what is proposed and the reason for the study.

  16. Sorry but this is just pretty weak. To jump from “handedness” to results like these overlooks enormous complexities. For starters, the part of the brain known best for comprehending speech–Wernicke’s region–is in the left hemisphere for 90% of people. Does this have anything to do with it? Well, maybe. Maybe as much as “handedness” since that in itself is somewhat dictated by hemisphere dominance. And anyway, does comprehension have anything to to with persuasion? Does handedness influence or weight smoking behavior? Moreover, if you asked them to do something more taxing, would you get the same results? For simple tasks, people tend to just help one another out, you don’t have to ask them in one ear or the other.

    The conclusions drawn from this study are far too strong.

  17. It’s been a while since I studied neuroscience… Since Broca’s area is in the left hemisphere, would that mean that people with right-side hearing loss would tend to have more difficulty with language than those with left-side hearing loss?

  18. @#11: “I wonder if they’re just finding people are mostly right-eared as in ‘right-handed.'”

    That was my immediate reaction as well. I’m left-handed, left-ear dominant and even left-eye dominant. I always talk on the phone using my left ear (even though I have a slight hearing impairment in that ear…coincidentally from spending too much time near giant speakers in dance clubs in my younger days).

    Overall, seems like a pretty lame-ass “study” since they did not consider “sidedness” as a factor.

  19. @ Anonymous #19:

    Sorry but this is just pretty weak. To jump from “handedness” to results like these overlooks enormous complexities. … The conclusions drawn from this study are far too strong.

    I think there may be a confusion. The study does not jump from handedness to these results, in fact, it barely seems to mention handedness. It’s the commenters that have suggested the link.

    @ Mellowknees # 22:

    Overall, seems like a pretty lame-ass “study” since they did not consider “sidedness” as a factor.

    Actually, from the first page preview they showed of the study, they did consider it. Or at least, they cited research that showed that right-ear dominance exists irrespective of handedness:

    Many laboratory studies … have evidenced a right-ear advantage in several linguistic tasks. … (T)his advantage has been documented in right and left handers … (Bryden 1988 etc.)

  20. I generally feel like I understand speech better from my right ear, but hear subtleties and pitches of music better from my left ear.

    I always attributed it to brain hemisphere, rather than handedness, though.

  21. approaching on the “strong side” (most people are right handed)means the listener is more relaxed and receptive than someone expecting ambush on the left.
    What do chimps do?

  22. This is a pretty poorly designed study. In Italy, the custom when greeting someone is to kiss the cheek on the right. So naturally Italians talk to the right ear first and respond to that because it’s more natural and polite. One thing we learn here – crap science can come from anywhere.

  23. Takuan: Again note their citation that shows these results (or at least results showing a right-ear advantage) exist irrespective of handedness.

    I’ll warrant that you’re explanation may have something to do with their third study, when they got more ciggies from the right ear than the left.

  24. Means fuck-all to me, as I’m deaf in my right ear. (Also, incidentally, Alan Moore.)

  25. @Takuan: According to the first page of the article, this advantage is seen in children as well, so I would expect the answer is “no.” It doesn’t cite the age of the children, though (you would have to read the cited article).

    However, all this insistence by commenters that this is caused by our handedness is really due to our misconception that our handedness is the most important bias that exists for us, because we use our hands constantly and are constantly aware of our handedness.

    However, no one would suggest, I believe, that “footedness” is caused by handedness. So why we have to keep suggesting the same thing for eyes and ears I don’t understand.

    Really there are two logical explanations:

    1) The same brain asymmetries that cause handedness also cause other sensory/motor asymmetries. These may appear on the same side or they might not. (i.e. handedness, footedness and earedness have the same cause. Handedness does not cause ear bias).


    2) Whatever causes handedness, footedness and eyedness is irrelevant as ear bias has a different cause. Most likely it is related to the asymmetry which causes Broca’s Area and Wernicke’s region to be in the left hemisphere in all Humans, which might then cause a right-ear favor (as sensor signals are swapped).

    The misconception that our handedness must be causing everything else stems purely from the high-importance hands and handedness have in our daily lives.

  26. Heh – in my case it’s just due to chronic hearing loss in my left ear from heavy equipment….

  27. Okay, that’s weird. I just realize that I almost always hold a phone handset to my right ear*, but hook my headset over my left. Huh. Wonder what that’s all about.

    *Except for my office phone, which sits to my left causing me to answer left-handed.

  28. “…would the prejudice against lefties, mean they adopt right handed bias?”

    Yes. Sometimes. Most machine tools are set up for right-handed operation, so it’s wise to adopt right handed operation- for instance, a table saw. You wouldn’t want to cross your arms to put the trigger in your left hand- awkward / dangerous.
    I, for one, play guitar left handed, but I don’t reverse my strings. That way, I can play your guitar too. But: I take the mouse in my right hand, so I can use your computer. I can draw with the mouse better right handed, but I certainly don’t draw (pencil) with the right.
    My ears? No real preference… which side is the sound from? I use my eyes the same way- the closer eye looks. But I strongly prefer my right eye.

  29. I always use my right ear for phones and for conversations in loud places. I think that phones can cause hearing loss in certain frequencies. Because I’m into music production, I try to limit any damage from the phone to one ear, my right ear. I hear better with my left, and I’ll never use it for the phone.

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