Stories tagged brains

Jun
24
2009

This is another good strategy: Decoy ears.
This is another good strategy: Decoy ears.Courtesy niclindh
Just kidding, of course. Whisper into either ear, and you’ll probably get all sorts of nothing. I’m cold like that.

For most people, though, it turns out that speaking into someone’s right ear is a good way to get what you want. Not a perfect way to get what you want, but it seems to help.

Apparently it’s been widely accepted that the right ear is usually dominant in “listening to verbal stimuli” (I suppose that means that you pay more attention with that ear, or that that ear pays more attention itself, as it were), but a new study has explored how this plays out in actual human behavior. It was tested in the most sophisticated of human laboratories: the European discotheque. By asking for cigarettes.

I imagine that there has never been a scientific study with “What?!” shouted so many times. Nonetheless, the researchers, sweating and bedecked in glowsticks, determined observed several things over the course of three studies. In the first two, they found that when clubbers couldn’t hear a cigarette request very well, they offered their right ears most often, and 72% of cigarette negotiation took place on the right side. In the third study, the researchers approached people intentionally from either the right or the left when asking for cigarettes, and those clubbers who were asked through the right ear yielded “significantly more” cigarettes.

The reason for this, the scientists think, is that the right ear is (oddly) more directly connected to the left hemisphere of the brain, and the left brain is dominant when it comes to words and numbers. (The left brain is sort of like your inner math nerd, and the right brain is sort of like your inner art nerd. Your inner jock is the stem.) This direct connection, I suppose, makes people more naturally inclined to listen to verbal requests through the right ear, and makes requests received through the right ear more easily processed than those taken through the left ear.

Because I don’t like doing what I’m told, no matter what I’m told, I am now wearing a right ear patch at all times. It has a skull and crossbones on it, to give me a sort of nautical, pirate-getting-dressed-while-drunk look. Please contact me if you’d like to order your own ear patch. Unless you’d rather go around giving everybody cigarettes all the time.

Jan
16
2007

Bird brain: A large-brained raven has a better chance of survival than a small-brained bird of the same size. Photo Bureau of Land Management.
Bird brain: A large-brained raven has a better chance of survival than a small-brained bird of the same size. Photo Bureau of Land Management.

A scientific paper published in England reports that birds with bigger brains have higher survival rates than do small-brained species. A team of scientists studied birds and determined which ones had the largest brains, relative to their body size. They then collected data on birds in the wild, and found that a large-brained bird had a better chance of surviving year-to-year than a small-brained bird of the same body size.

Scientists attribute this to the large-brained birds being better able to modify their behavior in response to a change in the environment.

A big brain can be a disadvantage early in a bird’s life cycle. Big brains require a lot of energy to grow, and a lot of time to develop. But once the bird matures, a bigger brain helps them survive.