‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’: What Do You Hear This Voice Saying?

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Once again, it’s time for social media users to choose a team – so are you a “Yanny” or “Laurel” person?

Instead of an optical illusion, 2018’s version of “the dress” is auditory.

The recording of a bot that sounds clearly to be saying “Yanny” for some, and “Laurel” for others, surfaced on Reddit Sunday.

“If I cut your ears off and put someone else’s on your head, sounds would sound different,” University of Chicago psychologist Howard Nusbaum told Gizmodo.

Whether or not our ear canals or our brains are to blame, it’s clear that, with one word, a bot has once again flamed internet users’ tribal instincts.

“Yanny….I listened 10 times and cant figure out how anyone hears laurel,” one person Tweeted. “They are saying they hear “yanny” because they want attention….” another chimed in.

“I have a husband, kids, 3 cats and a job. Attention is the last thing needed!😂
But, I only hear Yanny. Sorry,” another replied.

One person tried to find a middle ground between the two camps, theorizing that the level of base was to blame:

That explanation was roundly dismissed by many on Twitter, however, a select few claimed they managed to hear both Yanny and Laurel.

The conflict has even driven the Philadelphia Police Department to issue a statement on Twitter, asking residents to stop calling 911 “to ask if we’re hearing ‘Laurel’ or ‘Yanny.’

The debate rages on – what do you hear?

So what do you hear?

There’s a simple explanation for why people perceive one thing so differently — and science can explain it.

“Part of it involves the recording,” said Brad Story, Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing at The University of Arizona. “It’s not a very high quality. And that in itself allows there to be some ambiguity already.”

Then, he said, you have to take into account the different ways people are listening to this — through mobile phones, headphones, tablets, etc.

That aside, Story ran an acoustic analysis on the viral recording of the computerized voice. He also recorded himself saying “Yanny” and “Laurel,” for comparison.

“When I analyzed the recording of Laurel, that third resonance is very high for the L. It drops for the R and then it rises again for the L,” he said. “The interesting thing about the word Yanny is that the second frequency that our vocal track produces follows almost the same path, in terms of what it looks like spectrographically, as Laurel.”

OK, so what does that all mean?

“If you have a low quality of recording, it’s not surprising some people would confuse the second and third resonances flipped around, and hear Yanny instead of Laurel.”

Story also said that, if you change the pitch of the original recording, you can hear both words.

“Most likely the original recording was ‘Laurel,'” he said.

For the record…

According to The New York Times, this all started when a student in Georgia was working on a school project and found the audio on vocabulary.com. Students in the room couldn’t agree on what they were hearing. An Instagram poll was created and the rest is history.

For the record, the audio comes from the vocabulary.com page for “laurel”, so if you hear “laurel,” congrats. You get bragging rights.

1 Comment

  • Silverfish Imperetrix

    Since there’s no officially recognized name as ‘Yanny’ (to the best of my knowledge), ‘Laurel’ is the obvious choice without even listening.

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