Science explains the mystery behind the 'Yanny vs Laurel' debate

omg 17/05/2018

The Yanny/Laurel mystery has been solved - kind of.

Earlier this week the world was split into two opposing camps - but instead of fighting over religion, borders or resources, the disagreement was over whether a short audio clip was of a person saying 'Yanny' or 'Laurel'.

But it's emerged neither is correct - it wasn't a person at all, but a speech synthesiser.

The New York Times tracked down the original source of the auditory meme to Roland Szabo, an 18-year-old student from Georgia, who found the clip on website vocabulary.com. He posted it on web forum Reddit, and it spread online from there.

Mr Szabo said he was looking up the world 'Laurel' when a disagreement broke out amongst his classmates as to whether the voice was saying 'Laurel' or 'Yanny' - much like how in 2015, the infamous blue/gold dress sparked debates that continue to this day (it was eventually revealed the dress was in fact blue).

Much of the debate appears to have been fuelled by the fact the version of the 'Laurel' clip that went viral in a tweet by popular social media personality Cloe Feldman has significantly less bass in it than the original found on vocabulary.com.

 

The brains of people who hear 'Yanny' appear to be locking onto those higher frequencies.

In a short video, Twitter user Dylan Bennett used audio software to remove certain frequencies from the recording. When he took out the high frequencies, the word became much closer 'Laurel', but sounded remarkably like 'Yanny' when the bass frequencies were cut.

"Each sound is made up of several frequencies, and those that create 'Yanny' are higher than those for 'Laurel', cognitive neuroscientist Lars Riecke of Maastricht University told tech site The Verge.

Older people are less likely to hear the higher frequencies, so will likely lean towards 'Laurel', whilst younger listeners may think they're hearing 'Yanny'.

It could also depend on the speakers being used to listen to the recording. In the original comment thread on Reddit, some listeners reported changing their minds after switching to a different computer.

Finally, the brain is very good at filling in missing information, so what starts out as an ambiguous sound will be translated into something approaching a real word by our subconscious.

"Our brains 'fill in' missing information, and how that happens seems to vary a lot from one person to the next," psychology professor Andrew Oxenham of the University of Minnesota told Live Science.

Newshub.