President Barack Obama jokingly mimics U.S. Olympic gymnast McKayla Maroney's "not impressed" look while greeting members of the 2012 U.S. Olympic gymnastics teams in the Oval Office, Nov. 15, 2012. Steve Penny, USA Gymnastics President, and Savannah Vinsant laugh at left. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
I saw this photo this morning on Facebook (original source here). What jumped out at me? Both Ms. Maroney and President Obama's mouths are pointing left. What do you think that means? Ok. That's a rhetorical question. I have a thought or two regarding the answer. Here goes.
If Tomatis was right about the ear's active participation in the processing of sound, with the right ear processing higher frequencies faster, a left pointing mouth indicates that the left ear, which cannot process higher frequencies as fast as the right, is being favored. Sure. Both people in the photograph are playing around, but the brain doesn't know any different. Distance is a matter of the left (and I am not talking politics!). If you spend time watching people you'll see what I mean. When we are on the left, we are distant from from we are observing. Closeness? That looks different. It is a matter of the right.
This goes back to my post about the Presidential candidates (see here). If you yell at someone, the neural connection to the right ear will be impacted. The right ear will, actively speaking, turn 'off' to protect itself. This is because the person being yelled or spoken to in a negative tone of voice will distance him/herself from the speaker by disengaging the muscles of the ear. But let's back up a minute. What does the active processing of the higher frequencies of the right ear give one? A sense of immediacy, intimacy, depth and and presence. Being yelled at strips this away. This is all the more harmful when the person being yelled at is trapped in his/her environment. If yelling or negative speech is kept up, what do you think will happen to the person's audio-vocal control and their inner thought process over a long period of time?
Interestingly, recent social research indicates that if you speak harshly to a person, and then apologize, your one instance of 'right speech' isn't enough (yes..the pun is intended). At least five positive interactions are necessary to ameliorate the effects of that one negative impact.
The picture above shows what a person who is turned off looks like, even in jest. (I haven't addressed the difference in the crossing of their arms, but I think you probably have some sense of what is indicated based on my posts.)
My point is this, since this is a blog about singing: we can learn a great deal by listening and watching. However, this is best done through a mindset - if not an 'ear-set' - of encouragement and affirmation. It's the right thing to do.