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Laurel or Yanny – The latest online trend is making people question their hearing!

By Jesica Slabbert - May 18, 2018
Laurel or Yanny – The latest online trend is making people question their hearing!

The world has become divided thanks to the latest online trend called Laurel or Yanny. A voice recording circled the globe this week asking people if they heard either Laurel or Yanny being said in the recording.

Listen to the recording here:

Much like the trend a few years ago about the Black and Blue versus the White and Gold dress, this recording has created and internet argument that has divided the population, with 47% hearing Yanny and 53% hearing Laurel, according to a recent twitter poll.

But how is it possible to hear two different names being said in one recording? What is the science behind the chaos?

Thanks to AsapScience, we now have an explanation.

The first thing to look at is PRIMING, if you play the clip without showing the two possible choices of what can be heard you might not hear either of them at all. By reading them you are primed to hear one or the other.

Secondly, when you speak you produce sound waves that propagate through the air.

The original Yanny/Laurel recording was created by Brad Story, a professor of speech, language and hearing. In the recording of each name, you can see that the acoustic features are very similar.

If you are listening through a laptop, headphones, or a phone it will influence what you hear based on sound quality.

But then what does it mean when you listen to the same device but you hear different things when you have someone sitting next to you? This might have something to do with the age of your ears.

The sounds in Yanny play at a higher frequency than the sounds in Laurel. As we age our ears are less able to hear higher frequencies – so if you hear Yanny it means you are able to hear at higher frequencies.

The brain has so much stimulus at all times that it uses existing information and precise neurological pathways to focus its attention. This why when you are at a loud party you can listen to what your friend is saying but also direct your attention to another conversation if you want.

In a similar way your brain is deciding which name to hear in the recording.

So while people are hearing both names, the right answer is actually Laurel, as the original recording says Laurel, but if you put the recording at a higher frequency you will hear Yanny.

View their video explaining the phenomenon here: