It’s almost certainly ‘Laurel’, not ‘Yanny’, according to science

It’s almost certainly ‘Laurel’, not ‘Yanny’, according to science

The audio equivalent of ‘the dress‘, a photo from 2015 that was perceived by some as showing a blue dress and by others a gold one, is now doing the rounds on the web, and it seems to be dividing the internet right down the middle.

In case you’ve been offline for the past several hours or need a refresher, here it is again. Do you hear ‘Laurel’ or ‘Yanny?’

I’m on #TeamYanny – for now. Some people report hearing both names at different times, likely owing to different environments and speakers.

So which is it? According to experts in psychology and audio engineering who spoke to Gizmodo, it’s simply down to the variations in how people perceive sound, and the difference in the frequencies that we pick up.

Researchers explained to Quartz that the audio frequency patterns of both words are fairly similar, so there’s a high chance of them sounding alike.

However, a closer look at the waveform for the confounding audio clip revealed to Brad Story, a professor of speech, language, and hearing sciences at the University of Arizona, that it’s almost certainly ‘Laurel’, “because it clearly contains the primary acoustic features for an “l” and an “r”.

Credit: Brad Story / Quartz

At the same time, the waveform of Story’s speech saying “Laurel” also matches the robot voice more closely than of his recording of “yanny.”

There’s also this clip, which shows that tweaking the bass level takes you from #TeamLaurel to #TeamYanny right quick:

Well, I guess that means John Mayer isn’t just talking out of his hat: a condition called Presbycusis, which is basically age-related hearing loss, most notably affects your ability to hear higher frequencies – so it’s possible that more older folks might hear ‘Laurel’ than young people.

So there you have it folks, it’s ‘Laurel’ – even though I hear otherwise on every speaker in my house.


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