Yanny or Laurel? Audio clip divides the internet

Brad Barket  Getty Images for DJ D-Nice

Brad Barket Getty Images for DJ D-Nice

We were discussing this in the KHQ Newsroom too and it seems like everyone is split. He was able to make it say both Laurel and Yanny in the clip but he did have to change the pitch to accomplish this feat.

So what exactly is going on?

Some people who listen to this audio file hear one thing; others hear something completely different.

When we pay close attention to some frequencies (particularly lower ones), we hear "Laurel", and when we pay attention to the higher frequencies, we hear "Yanny".

In a recent interview with WIRED, Katie Hetzel, a freshman at Flowery Branch High School, said she played the pronunciation clip of the word "Laurel" on vocabulary.com while studying for a literature class.

People listening to the exact same recording hear totally different things.

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There's a Science Behind Whether You Hear "Yanny" vs "Laurel"
Headphones and speakers can also play a role in this, depending on the quality of the set, or if they are tinny. First, there's a simple explanation as to why some people hear " Yanny " and some people hear " Laurel ".

Experts say the fierce debate all has to do with sound frequency.

"With auditory perceptual differences, it is not that you don't hear anything". How one hears it is similar to how people viewed a dress on the internet three years ago. The question of "Yanny or Laurel" is kind of like the audio version of "the dress" meme, which appeared black-and-blue to some and gold-and-white to others.

But failing those theories, he said it "could just be a big internet hoax".

Regardless of the initial answer, the clip with its pitch dropped sounds like Yanny. Marino said, "I think maybe it creates something our brains aren't used to and so we interpret it differently".

Dr. Wolfe says hair cells in our inner ear also contribute to the sounds being heard.

This is consistent with the idea that what we hear is related to the range of frequencies we're (unconsciously) paying attention to.

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