Swept up in royal mania and need a break? Let’s help you shift your attention to a debate that’s taken over the web, Hollywood, and even the White House: Yanny or Laurel?
If you haven’t heard (pun intended), a poll was posted on Twitter earlier this week by YouTube vlogger Cloe Feldman asking everyone if they heard the word “yanny” or “laurel” in an audio file. Her simple question launched a days-long discussion about who is right— and it’s still raging on.
How did it start? A high school student from Georgia named Katie Wetzel looked up the word “laurel” for a literature project on the website Vocabulary.com. When playing the pronunciation clip, she kept hearing “yanny”, prompting her to get input from her classmates. They were divided between both words, and then Wetzel took the issue to Instagram.
From there, the question sprouted legs and moved to Reddit, which is where Feldman dug it up, shared it, and made it viral. She spent a few days tracking down its origins and learned about Wetzel.
The recording itself is just one robotic sounding voice pronouncing one word, but people are hearing two different things. In some cases, folks are listening it to over and over and hearing the other version. It has since been revealed that Broadway actor/singer named Jay Aubrey Jones is the voice behind the word that is stirring people up.
When he made the recording, he was saying “laurel.” So, what gives with the two distinct sounds? As explained in this vid from Fox32, it boils down to frequencies. People who get “yanny” are most likely tuning into higher pitches and frequencies, whereas “laurel” folks are hearing the lower frequencies.
Some of that is linked to how your brain processes the sounds it captures. According to scientists interviewed for The Verge, frequency, interpretation, ear mechanics, and your devices are all factors. They say if you are expecting to hear one sound, then it’s highly possible that you will.
Your speakers or headphones could also be playing a role in how frequencies are pieced together, as the recording has some extra background noise that could be affecting what’s heard. The condition of our ears also sways the perception of sound. That idea is expanded further in this video.
This viral meme is being compared to the great dress debate of 2015, where viewers disagreed on the colors of a dress in a photo. Optics, lighting, and the brain had a lot to do with how people processed the image, but it took a while for the discussion to die down.
Click on the clip below to hear what doctors have to say about age and hearing, but don’t go crazy trying to figure out why you hear one word over the other. Listen to the word for yourself here. Get in on it just for fun!
Cloe’s tweet attracted so much attention that she’s decided to cash in on the frenzy by creating t-shirts and hoodies noting both word camps. Which shirt would you buy: laurel or yanny?
Have you heard about this viral debate? Are you getting laurel, yanny, or both? What do you think of this “audio illusion”?