Folks with way too much time on their hands the world over are tearing Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds up in a raging debate about a name. The name in question depends what you hear in the viral video clip accompanying the countless posts and commentaries – is it Laurel or Yanny?
The worldwide web has not seen such a storm in a teacup since 2015’s infamous dress. You know the one. Was it blue and black, or was it gold? Was it even important? Clearly not, because now we are worried about names. Possibly far more exciting entertainment news are the fabulous casino games we have in store for you, and you don’t have to worry about names, because ‘winner’ is the only one you want to hear!
A Closer Look Or Listen
The #LaurelOrYanny video surfaced in May. It is best described as an auditory illusion. It was created by a group of students, who played the word ‘Laurel’ as recorded by opera singer Jay Aubrey Jones as part of a spoken word catalogue for Vocublary.com. They re-recorded the playback, but this time allowing the background noise in the room to be part of the recording.
Once the video had been posted online, a high school student in the USA noticed the ambiguity of the audio. She created a post about it on Instagram, and from there, it made its way to Reddit, Twitter, and YouTube. When viewers were asked what word they heard, more than 50% of the 500 000 Twitter poll respondents said they heard a male voice saying Laurel, while 47% said they heard the word Yanny.
What Celebrities Say
The debate about #IsItLaurel or #IsItYanni has not been confined to average, ordinary social media users. Even celebrities have got involved.
Among those who felt they had contributed just that much more to the world by telling the Internet whether they heard Laurel or Yanny were Stephen King, Chrissy Teigen, Laurel Halo, Yanni, and Ellen DeGeneres. It even reached the White House, which is perhaps one of the most damning marks against the Trump administration. In a video, staff can be seen reacting to the auditory illusion. Trump himself also appears in the video, and announces that he hears the word ‘Covfefe’, a reference to one of his many mysterious Tweets that also stirred debate.
Vocabulary.com also got into the spirit. Not long after millions of people had wasted their time listening and re-listening to the clip, the website team created a Yanny entry that features the same audio clip used for the word Laurel.
Why the Audio is Ambiguous
Scientists and academics have lost no time explaining why the clip plays tricks on the ears of listeners. According to University of Minnesota audiology professor Benjamin Munson, one name is heard at lower frequencies, while the other at higher frequencies.
If ear damage or hearing loss means someone has difficulty hearing higher frequencies, they most likely hear Laurel, whereas those who have little to no trouble hearing those frequencies hear Yanny.
University of Sydney School of Psychology professor David Alais said the crux of the matter was perceptual boundary, something that is also at work in many optical illusions. The Max Planck Institute of Psycholinguistics’ Dr Hans Rutger Bosker said that hearing the same word in acoustic contexts determined by higher or lower frequencies could influence how it is perceived.
Shades Of That Dress
As Laurel and Yanny has revealed differences in the way we perceive sound and made many of us ask #WhatDoYouHear, so the dress of 2015 revealed how differently we can perceive colour. In a photo posted on social media, the dress was described as blue and black.
One week and 10 million Tweets later, the world still was not sure if it was those colours, or if it was gold, because, to some viewers, it looked gold. The things that keep us busy!