Listen Up: The Right-Ear Advantage Is A Thing

In a crowded room with multiple conversations competing for your attention, it’s often difficult to hear clearly. However, if the words you’re trying to decode filter to your right ear, you have a much better chance of understanding what’s been said. It’s called the right-ear advantage, and scientists have proven the phenomenon is verifiable.

The reason is the way information is processed by the brain. Sound received by the right ear is relayed to the left hemisphere of the brain where speech is interpreted. However, when the left ear hears speech, the sound must travel to the right hemisphere and then back to the left. That delay is responsible for the right-ear advantage.

Although this phenomenon affects young children in particular, scientists recently tested the impact on adults and found that the more difficult the listening situation, the more the right-ear advantage persisted.

The implications to those entering the workforce can be critical. Listening closely to new colleagues is especially important when learning unfamiliar concepts, tasks, and information. Likewise, observing—which of course involves listening—can be key to understanding the corporate culture of a workplace.

Awareness about how your brain takes in information can make the difference between being a quick study and valuable asset to an organization, or a confused, inattentive, and clueless new-hire. So next time you want to make sure you absorb what’s being said, you might want to lean to the right.

From The Wall Street Journal


  1. What are some reasons for developing good workplace listening skills?
  2. Why might interrupting a speaker lead to poor communication?
  3. What are some ways you can communicate that you are listening without interrupting?



Smartphones Are Making Us Dumb… Unpaid Internships Are Baaack… The Selfie That Won’t Die

Smartphones Are Making Us Dumb

People are so attached to their smartphones that over half surveyed in a Gallup poll say they couldn’t imagine their lives without one and psychologists say that’s not good. Research is showing that the phones ferret their way into our psyches so the brain actually becomes dependent on them, in turn weakening our intellect.

Scientists have known for years that just the sound of a smartphone ringing causes distraction, poor concentration, and even a rise in blood pressure and pulse rate. Worse, the anxiety of being unable to answer a call reduces the owner’s ability to solve problems. Some researchers call this “brain drain,” which negatively affects learning, logical reasoning, abstract thought, and creativity.

Social skills suffer from using the devices, too. Even when talking face to face, smartphone users are itching to check their newsfeeds on their phones, making the actual conversations less meaningful and unfocused.

The phones’ appeal—constant availability of information, portability, and entertainment—is the very aspect that makes them what one cognitive psychologist calls a “supernormal stimulus” that can unduly commandeer attention.

From The Wall Street Journal

Unpaid Internships Are Baaack

After years of progress making internships fairer to young people seeking workplace experience, the US Department of Labor has issued new guidelines making it easier for companies that want to hire interns for no pay. The change reverts to rules that favor employers who can once again hire interns as free labor.

Previous rules required internships to meet six criteria that prohibited employers from taking “immediate advantage from the activities of the intern.” The new rules say an internship does not have to meet any threshold; it merely needs to be justified on its own merits.

The updated guidelines allow an employer to argue that even if an intern is completing low-level tasks with no supervision, that individual benefits from learning about how an industry works, thus making the unpaid internship legal. However, many employers are taking precautions and are paying interns minimum wage to avoid possible legal repercussions.

From Los Angeles Times

The Selfie That Won’t Die

Those temporary selfies, the ones that disappear? Not so temporary, it turns out.

The entire purpose of apps such as Snapchat and Instagram Stories is that they only allow viewers to see an image for a few seconds before it disappears. However, researchers are now saying that once those not-so-professional images are seen, they’re hard to unsee.

Because the so-called disappearing selfies are considered safe, people sending them tend to take more risqué snaps or other photos they wouldn’t send if they knew the picture would be more permanent. The researchers explain that viewers of these images can’t seem to forget them, leaving a lasting impression of the sender’s poor judgment.

The addition of screen-capture software compounds the problem, which becomes most dire when potential employers see the photos. At best, says one researcher: “[Prospective employers] might just think if you look uninhibited, you’re an idiot, and they don’t want to hire an idiot.”

From Harvard Business School



Emojis Cause Workplace Confusion

A whopping 71 percent of Americans add digital images such as emojis or GIFs when using mobile messaging apps. While such use may not cause ☹️ when sent between friends, the practice is causing many a 😰 in HR departments across American businesses. Why? The cutesy icons have now become evidence in certain workplace lawsuits. 😩

The problem lies in emojis’ inherent subjectivity—what’s funny to you may be offensiveto me. Perhaps that is why 39 percent of senior managers surveyed by Robert Half said that using emojis was unprofessional. However, in the same survey, 61 percent stated that using the images in work communication was okay “in certain situations.”

Clearly, a lack of consensus about if and when to use digital images pervades the workplace, and researchers are investigating just how the ubiquitous icons can cause chaos. Some findings show that emoji use affects the sender’s workplace persona by conveying a lack of seriousness. In fact, researchers in Israel found that use of emojis increased the perception of a sender’s incompetence. However, the data also found those reactions tend to be influenced by the level of formality in the communication, once again leaving emoji use problematical.

Even more serious, however, is that emojis have exacerbated sexual harassment issues, says Kelly Hughes, an attorney at the national legal firm Ogletree Deakins. Employees sending messages rife with heart or kissy face emojis open themselves up to harassment charges by creating what could be interpreted as a hostile work environment. This is especially true if the emojis are used to convey inappropriate thoughts. These types of messages end up putting employers at risk because workplace communication can be used as evidence in lawsuits against organizations.

It’s no wonder employers are 😩.


  1. Describe an acceptable situation for sending a message with an emoji to your boss.
  2. List some emojis that could be misinterpreted.
  3. Should firms create policies controlling the use of emojis in business communication?

–From Workforce