There’s a Science Behind Whether You Hear “Yanny” vs “Laurel”

In case you decided to spend yesterday on an island in the middle of the ocean, chances are you are familiar with the Yanny vs Laurel test. A video was tweeted out by @CloeCouture a couple of days ago, but it really blew up yesterday. The audio clip is a voice saying either Yanny or Laurel. When I first listened to it on my phone, it was SO OBVIOUSLY Yanny that I started to doubt if my friends all had hearing problems. But then, THEN, I listened to it on my laptop and heard Laurel, and now I can’t unhear Laurel and I’m so mad at myself for it. It’s that stupid blue or gold dress all over again. Why do we keep falling for this bullshit?! But, just as there was an explanation for the dress, there’s a scientific explanation for what you heard in the clip. Go, science!

In case you missed the Yanny vs Laurel test, fear not! I will ruin your life with it right now.

OK, so I just listened to it again, AND I HEAR YANNY AGAIN. It’s been a roller coaster of emotions and I am ready to get off. People were so offended by whether or not others heard Yanny or Laurel. Because if you heard one, there is no way the other was possible.

Things got a little heated on social media, which happens when stupid ass memes and polls take off. But everyone can just calm the fuck down, because I have some news: it’s both!

The clip isn’t an auditory illusion at all. The reason everyone hears something different has to do with frequency, the device you listened to the clip on, your own ears and how they perceive certain sounds, and what you’re expecting to hear. According to Lars Riecke, an assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University, the “acoustic information that makes us hear Yanny is higher frequency than the acoustic information that makes us hear Laurel.” Additionally, older adults tend to start losing their higher frequency hearing, which explains why some kids heard Yanny. The sound card in your device could emphasize higher or lower frequencies, which would explain why some people heard both on different devices.

But also, our brains could be influencing what we heard in the clip.

The clip contains two visual prompts in addition to the audio. So you brain may be telling you what you SHOULD hear, based on how it processed the visual prompts. Bharath Chandrasekaran, a professor in the department of communications sciences and disorders at the University of Texas at Austin says our brains are filling in what they think the sound should be, based on the noisy quality of the clip and our response to the visual prompts. Honestly, it’s pretty fascinating stuff!

So whether you hear Yanny vs Laurel, there really is no wrong answer. Did we all learn something here? Yes. Did we all waste incredible amounts of time and energy on a stupid internet test? Also yes.

(Image: Twitter/@CloeCouture)

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