18

On a Big Bang Theory episode (sec 56) Leonard is talking over the phone and everyone wonders who's the person on the other side, afterward Sheldon claims:

This should be fairly easy to deduce. He’s holding the phone to his left ear. Ears do not cross hemispheres, so he’s using the analytical rather than the emotional side of the brain, suggesting that he has no personal relationship with the caller.

Is there any correlation between the ear you choose to hold the phone and the person on the other side of the line?

  • 1
    pretty sure this is false as iirc the entire theory that our brain does certain tasks in one hemisphere vs another is no longer valid – Ryathal Jun 20 '12 at 15:38
  • 1
    Even if right/left hemisphere stuff is true, humans learned to listen with both ears, so it doesn't seem plausible that an ear-hemisphere connection as claimed could exist. – Flimzy Jun 20 '12 at 16:49
  • 3
    There is something called "Right Ear Advantage" (right ear advantage for verbal communication); Science Daily article: Need Something? Talk To My Right Ear – Oliver_C Jun 20 '12 at 17:30
  • 4
    This reminds me of a long-ago supervisor of mine, who, unconsciously, would pick up the phone with her right-hand, and bring to her right ear, after some time transfer it to her left hand and left ear, and then hang-up with her left hand. She couldn't work out why, every month or so, she would need to unwind the handset cable to undo all the tangles. – Oddthinking Jun 22 '12 at 13:07
  • 2
    Anecdotally, yes, but not for the stated reason: if it's a social phone call, I'll hold the phone to my right ear because that uses my dominant hand, while if it's a business call, I'll hold the phone to my left ear to leave my dominant hand free for taking notes. – Mark Dec 9 '14 at 7:16
15

"Ears do not cross hemispheres"

That's obviously wrong. Hearing, from both ears, is first processed by one of the parts of brainstem — mesencephalon (aka midbrain). On higher level it's processed by primary auditory cortex.

  • 2
    how's that "obvious" ? – isJustMe Jun 22 '12 at 13:15
  • 2
    Maybe it's not obvious, but it's true. All my auditory experiments show bilateral brain activation in every single subject. It's texbook knowledge. This texbook mentions it (only in the book, not on the website). In fact, the contralateral hemisphere gives stronger activation than the ipsilateral one, so hearing sounds through the left ear would give more auditory activity in the right hemisphere (for simple sounds; for words it will more likely be the left one, but that's independent of the ear). – Ana Jun 22 '12 at 13:26
  • 1
    @Ana can you post that as answer please? – isJustMe Jun 22 '12 at 14:50
  • 1
    I prefer not to, because it doesn't really answer the question. There still might be a correlation between the preferred ear and person talked to. I find it entirely unlikely, of course. – Ana Jun 22 '12 at 17:42
  • 3
    Vartec could you expand on your answer please? The left brain vs right brain thing always brings out my skeptic radar pings. – Tim Scanlon Jun 27 '12 at 12:32
6

Ears cross hemispheres.

http://www.soundtherapyperth.com/overview/rightear.php

How you interpret the conversation, based on how well you hear it and which hemisphere is first to have contact it, may be affected.

There is currently research based on how people hold their cellphones based on left or right brain dominance: http://www.henryford.com/body.cfm?id=46335&action=detail&ref=1540

But someone should research whether people are more emotionally responsive, or rationally biased based on left or right ear cell-phone conversations.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .