This week has had some dark news and it’s only Tuesday, so naturally the internet has managed to distract itself with a completely pointless debate. A video of a computer generated voice saying….something, has caused intense consternation between listeners who think they hear “Yanny,” and those who think they hear “Laurel.”
The video first garnered attention on Reddit a few days ago but on Tuesday it started making the rounds on other social media sites and quickly spurred a full-blown, hair-pulling, teeth-grinding online brawl. Though some people say the sound changes the more they listen (and, to be honest, I can hear both), many people only hear either “Yanny” or “Laurel” and are full on perplexed as to how anyone can hear something different. It’s 2018’s audio version of “the dress.”
One user on Reddit proposed a theory that seems to explain the phenomenon: different volumes will emphasize different bass frequencies, also known as the equal-loudness contour. This makes a listener more likely to hear “Laurel” at higher volumes or “Yanny” at lower volumes. The video might actually contain both, but each listener’s brain focuses on one or the other because they’re so phonetically similar. One Twitter user tested out the theory, though many people still couldn’t hear the difference:
It’s worth noting that our brains are not as great at interpreting sound as we might think. Take the McGurk Effect: our brain makes assumptions based on what we’re seeing, which can make us literally “hear” the wrong thing:
But no matter how scientific an explanation we get, it’s still trippy as hell to hear something different than your coworker while watching the same video.
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