Do you hear Yanny or Laurel? The internet is going crazy for this bizarre audio illusion

May 25, 2018 5:04 pm Last Updated: May 25, 2018 5:05 pm

The internet loves a good optical illusion. Because of the strange ways our conscious minds operate, two people could look at the exact same thing and see something totally different.

There are many examples, but the most (in)famous one around the internet is probably “the dress,” which still has people debating white-and-gold vs. blue-and-black.

The dispute over “the dress” has to do with your brain’s perception of light and color. Plenty of similar color illusions have hit the internet since then.

But the newest phenomenon doesn’t trick your eyes … it deceives your ears.

The new “dress” is actually a word. It’s just a second-long audio clip, but people hear surprisingly very different things.

Listen to the clip, and see if you’re on team “Yanny” or team “Laurel.”

Chances are, you probably distinctly heard one or the other … or maybe you heard “Yanny” and then came around to hearing “Laurel,” or vice versa.

The clip has gone viral, and the internet has some strong opinions about it.

 

And naturally, so did the musician Yanni:

Like “the dress,” the Yanny/Laurel phenomenon was discovered by accident.

Wired unearthed the history of the clip, and found that the weird sensation was actually discovered by high schoolers. On May 11, Katie Hetzel, a freshman at Flowery Branch High School in Georgia was studying for a world literature class when she looked up the word “laurel” on Vocabulary.com.

Yes, the word is actually “laurel.” But when she played the voice recording of the word, she heard “Yanny” instead, and the debate that would soon dominate the internet began.

“I asked my friends in my class and we all heard mixed things,” Hetzel told Wired.

She shared the clip on her Instagram story, but it really took off when it was posted to Reddit on May 12.

 

(Pixabay)

It’s also worth noting that this isn’t an intentional illusion; there was no distortion or audio effect added to the clip. It is simply the recording that, according to Wired, an opera singer made for the site in 2007.

So what exactly is going on here?

The phenomenon has to do with how you perceive different frequencies.

The New York Times interviewed several experts, who gave their best guess to why people year “Yanny.”

Patricia Keating, a linguistics professor and the director of the phonetics lab at U.C.L.A., said that “it depends on what part (what frequency range) of the signal you attend to.”

Keating wasn’t sure what factors would effect which frequency signal perception, but Elliot Freeman, a perception researcher at City University of London, said it might just have to do with what you’re listening on:

“What one hears first depends on the how the sound is reproduced, e.g. on an iPhone speaker or headphones, and on an individual’s own ‘ear print’ which might determine their sensitivity to different frequencies,” he told the Times.

The New York Times made a helpful slider tool that lets you adjust the frequency levels, from “Yanny” on one end to “Laurel” on the other. It’s an interesting way of getting a better insight to the phenomenon, and lets you hear what others are hearing.

But the clip itself offers yet another fascinating insight to the wonders of human perception—or at the very least will make for a fun debate around the office.

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