Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Labs in San Francisco, told AFP the environment in which one listens, including whether headphones or a speaker are used, affects the intensity of the frequencies, and hence what one hears.
Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Labs in San Francisco, told AFP the environment in which one listens, including whether headphones or a speaker are used, affects the intensity of the frequencies, and hence what one hears.

The truth behind ‘Yanny or Laurel’ audio

AN audio snippet with just two syllables has ignited an internet meltdown, dividing social media users into staunchly opposed camps: do you hear "Yanny" or "Laurel?" But how did we get here?

The collective sensory experiment causing a Twitter tizzy mushroomed from a short audio clip originally published by a high school student on Reddit, The New York Times revealed.

Roland Szabo, 18, said he recorded the seemingly innocuous audio from a vocabulary website while doing a project for his school in the US state of Georgia.

He played it for his peers, who disagreed over whether the syllables formed "Yanny" or "Laurel."

USE THE TOOL THEY BUILT SO YOU CAN HEAR BOTH NAMES

Intrigued, Szabo sent it to a friend who posted the clip on Instagram and created a poll that quickly went viral, triggering a mass debate that has spread internationally.

Input from celebrities has inflamed the frenzy: "It's Yanny," horror writer Stephen King said in a deadpan tweet.

But just hours later he changed his mind.

Then he decided to inject some humour.

"It's so clearly laurel," quipped supermodel Chrissy Teigen.

"I can't figure out how one would hear yanny."

But she quickly got over the whole #yannylaurel thing.

In perhaps the most vexing element of the debate, the majority of listeners hear beyond doubt one of the two words, with few waffling between the two.

Others hear only laughter.

The US Department of Defense made light of the controversy on its Twitter account, with a photo of a US Marine Corps instructor berating a recruit: "I said it's #Yanny, recruit, not #Laurel!"

Oscar-winning actress, Marlee Matlin, who is deaf, was praised the winner of the debate when she tweeted this witty response.

BRAIN GAME

Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Labs in San Francisco, told AFP the environment in which one listens, including whether headphones or a speaker are used, affects the intensity of the frequencies, and hence what one hears.

"When there is more energy towards the mid and higher frequencies, people tend to hear 'Yanny'. When the low frequencies are more emphasised, people will hear 'Laurel'," Crum said.

 

Do you hear Yanny or Laurel?

This poll ended on 18 June 2018.

Current Results

Yanny

32%

Laurel

44%

Both

16%

Neither

6%

This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

She added that our brains want to "categorise" the elements of speech when they are ambiguous, as in this case passing them either into the "Laurel" box or "Yanny" box.

The controversy recalls the similarly impassioned debate that broke out over the #TheDress in 2015.
The controversy recalls the similarly impassioned debate that broke out over the #TheDress in 2015.

This debate is similar to #thedress in 2015 which almost broke the internet.

The two-toned frock had social media users tearing their hair out over whether its colours were white and gold, or black and blue.


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