Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Can you ear me now?

This story at Live Science is from June, but I didn't hear about it until recently.

Hearing in discotheques

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 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 (such as "babababa") and waited for the subjects to turn their head and offer either their left of their right ear. They then asked subjects for a cigarette (in Italian the request specifically was "Hai una sigaretta?" which can be translated in English as "Do you have a cigarette?"). Overall, 58 percent offered their right ear for listening and 42 percent their left. No link was found 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.

The applications of this science remain to be discovered. Can the results be generalized beyond cigarettes, club-goers, the "discotheque" environment, smokers, and Italians? It seems that "babababa" may have a different meaning in a club environment than outside of that environment. I'd assume it means, "I'm tripping too much to be able to use language; can you help me?" When the researcher then produces a coherent request, the subject may surrender a cigarette in relief.

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