If you’ve been on the internet in the last 24 hours, you’ve likely caught wind of the debate that sweeping the nation: Yanny vs Laurel. If those words mean nothing to you, we’ll catch you up. An audio recording was posted on Instagram and Reddit four days ago and the world is going crazy trying to figure out what the computer-generated voice is saying.
Listen to the recording below, what do you hear, “Yanny” or “Laurel”?
What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel pic.twitter.com/jvHhCbMc8I
— Cloe Feldman (@CloeCouture) May 15, 2018
Here at the Audicus office, we are divided down the middle between Team Yanny and Team Laurel. We decided to look into this trickery and investigate why our ears are perceiving different sounds.
The origins of Yanny vs Laurel
The clip above was originally posted on Reddit on Saturday night. Quickly it garnered over a thousand comments from people who weren’t sure if this was a trick or if everyone was losing their minds. Social media influencer Cloe Feldman caught wind of it and posted it on Twitter where it exploded overnight.
The audio originally comes from Vocabulary.com; specifically, the recording for how to pronounce the word “laurel.” So, definitively, the voice is saying laurel. But try telling that to the thousands of Yanny-ers out there.
Yanny vs Laurel: the science behind it all
According to our own in-house experts, the discrepancy might have something to do with the head-related transfer function (HRTF). This term refers to how a human ear receives sound from a point in space. Sound can be perceived differently by people depending on the size and shape of your head, ears, ear canal, and nasal and oral cavities.
Listening with headphones, different devices, or changing the distance from speakers or volume can change what you hear.
According to NBC News, the simplest explanation is due to frequency. Those who hear Yanny can hear high frequency much better than those who only hear Laurel. High frequencies are also the first to go as we age and lose our hearing, so many older people will have trouble hearing Yanny.
External elements like gender, dialect, language processing, and visual cues also affect how we perceive this mysterious recording.
Popular Science created a video with many different alterations of the original recording. Give it a listen and see if you can switch between Yanny and Laurel! Tell us what you hear in the comment below.