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A Left Ear Advantage for Emotion Words

 T. C. Sim and Carolyn Martinez

Sixty-two participants listened to emotion (e.g., depressed) and non- emotion (e.g., combine) words that were dichotically presented. Emotion and non-emotion words were presented to the left- or right- ear, and participants were instructed to recall the list. There were eight trials, and each trial consisted of six sets of dichotic signals with a 1-sec gap between sets. The results showed a left-ear advantage for emotion words. The was a significant left-ear advantage F(1,60) = 21.65, p < .0005. When emotion stimuli appeared on the left ear, the accuracy of recall was higher, with a mean of 64.43%, and 58.15% for the right-ear. Our study shows that in the face of competing verbal information, emotional words compete more strongly when they are presented through the left ear. Research has shown that ear-advantage is a function of the nature of the stimuli presented and the nature of the task required of the listener. The literature reports a left- ear advantage prevails for stimuli, such as musical chords and melodies, that are processed in the right- hemisphere. It also shows a left-ear advantage for melody recognition task and right-ear superiority for letter recognition task. In the present study, the nature of the stimuli was homogeneously verbal. The difference between the left and right ears was the presence of emotional content. The findings are consistent with the role of the right-hemisphere in the processing of emotional stimuli.


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