The “ Yanny vs. Laurel ” debate has captivated, exhausted, enraged, and divided the internet, all in the span of a few days.
So how did we get here? It started with a short recording posted to Reddit that was apparently taken from an in Instagram poll asking which of the two words can be heard in the recording.
While there have been conflicting reports as to who was first to post the clip online, “Yanny vs. Laurel” went viral on Twitter after a YouTuber Cloe Feldman tweeted the recording Tuesday (May 15).
What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel pic.twitter.com/jvHhCbMc8I
— Cloe Feldman (@CloeCouture) May 15, 2018
According to Wired, the original recording was done by an unnamed opera singer for Vocabulary.com in 2007. The site commissioned a “bunch of opera singers” to record 200,000 different words, and “Laurel” was among the group.
But it turns out that there could be a scientific explanation for why people are hearing the recording differently.
“Yanny vs. Laurel” is all about auditory frequency, according to a report from the Verge. The site consulted Lars Riecke, an assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University, who explained that hearing “Laurel” or “Yandy” is dependent on how your ears emphasize certain frequencies. Riecke suspects that the frequencies have been artificially adjusted in the recording (i.e. you’ll hear Yanny if the higher frequencies are removed and Laurel is the lower frequencies are removed). This may explain why some people hear Yanny or Laurel, and if the person’s ear moves between both high and low frequencies they’re likely to hear both words.
There’s also a brain component. Outside noise can contribute to whether a person would hear Yanny or Laurel, as well as how your brain compartmentalizes sound.
Since the video clip floating around the ‘net shows the names “Laurel” and “Yanny,” the brain knows that it only has those two options to choose from. Furthermore, as a researcher interviewed by the New York Times pointed out, the brain can automatically tune out higher or lower frequencies if it knows what it’s looking for.
Of course, the scientific explanation won’t kill the internet chatter, so if you’re hearing Laurel vs. Yanny, it doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re wrong (and vice versa) — even if the internet says otherwise.
— Emilio Martinez (@emartineeez) May 17, 2018
On Twitter it’s Yanny
On instagram it’s laurel
On Facebook it hasn’t happened yet
— Quinta (@quintabrunson) May 16, 2018
Also, some people are hearing something totally different (pray for them).
— Danielle Maltby (@daniellemmaltby) May 16, 2018