The Yanny/Laurel phenomenon

Another case of perceptual ambiguity gone viral, along the lines of the famous blue dress/gold dress phenomenon.

I emphatically hear “Yanny”, but roughly half of the population hears “Laurel”.

The New York Times explains:

The Times traced the clip back to Roland Szabo, an 18-year-old high school student in Lawrenceville, Ga., who posts as RolandCamry on Reddit. He said Wednesday that he was working on a school project and recorded the voice from a vocabulary website playing through the speakers on his computer. People in the room disagreed about what they were hearing. Some other students created an Instagram poll, which was then shared widely on Reddit, Twitter and other sites.

One detail may frustrate some and vindicate others: He found the original clip on the vocabulary.com page for “laurel,” the word for a wreath worn on the head, “usually a symbol of victory.”

The Times also provides a tool that allows you to modify the frequency response, transforming “Yanny” into “Laurel” and back again:

We Made a Tool to Help You Hear Both Laurel and Yanny

22 Replies to “The Yanny/Laurel phenomenon”

  1. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    There are even intermediate positions of the slider where I can hear both pronunciations at the same time. It’s not like a Necker cube, where you see it either one way or the other, but not both ways simultaneously.

  2. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    I hear “introspect.”

    OK, actually “laurel.”

    Glen Davidson

  3. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    I just heard it on PBS Newshour, and I heard “yanny.” Overall it sounded so different from what I hear here. I heard it as tinny and robotic on the Newshour.

    Speakers probably made the difference, I’m guessing.

    Glen Davidson

  4. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    The slider tool shows that it’s the high frequencies that make it sound like “Yanny”, while it changes to “Laurel” when the high frequencies are suppressed.

    So how you hear it is probably a function of a) the recording itself, b) the speaker or headphones through which you listen to it, and c) your own auditory response curve.

    I wonder if older people are more likely to hear “Laurel”, since higher frequencies are the first to go in age-related hearing loss?

  5. PeterP
    Ignored
    says:

    My spouse and I both heard ‘Laurel’ and we both qualify for that ‘older person’ label.

  6. Robert Byers
    Ignored
    says:

    I only clearly hear laurel. I don’t understand how yanny could be heard or what it all means if that is indeed so.
    The thing to remember about hearing and all senses from a christian view also.
    Is that we have never heard anything in our life. All we have done is have our soul observe our memory. In fact one could prove this to yourself by listening to Laurel/yanney in your head right now. actually bringing forth the memory of hearing it.
    When you do this you demonstrate how you actually hear.
    having a song stuck in your head is another manifestation of this.

  7. Adapa
    Ignored
    says:

    I heard “yaurel” with both sounds run together.

  8. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    An interesting series of tweets on the topic from psycholinguist Suzy Styles.

  9. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    PeterP:
    My spouse and I both heard ‘Laurel’ and we both qualify for that ‘older person’ label.

    Same. Move it an octave and I can hear ‘yanny.’

  10. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    I’ll tell you what older people hear when I get to a computer with speakers.

    I have to be very careful about what I hear, because it often isn’t what was said.

    Most Youtube videos are unwatchable because the automatic captions suck.

    I have my Roku set for captions, but many shows have captions done so sloppily that I can hear better than the captioner. This happens most often with uncommon words or people’s names, where context and familiarity with literature give clues.

    By comparison, DVD captions are usually perfect, although they sometimes abridge long speeches.

  11. walto walto
    Ignored
    says:

    Acartia:
    Given the constant voices rattling around in Mung’s head, I wonder what he hears.

    “Darwin is Satan! His followers are deranged devil-worshipers!”

  12. Neil Rickert
    Ignored
    says:

    Moved a comment to guano.

  13. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    So I’m old and hard of hearing. The tool does not enable me to hear Yanny, but when the slider is moved all the way I hear something like Gianny or Chianny.

    I can hear some sibilants, but there are severe dips in my frequency response. I have not had a sonogram, but I do have test files intended for loudspeaker testing.

    This makes me wonder if lots of people have irregular hearing curves.

  14. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    GlenDavidson:
    I just heard it on PBS Newshour, and I heard “yanny.”Overall it sounded so different from what I hear here.I heard it as tinny and robotic on the Newshour.
    Speakers probably made the difference, I’m guessing.
    Glen Davidson

    I first thought it was a prank instigated by 4chan, considering the original speaker thought he was saying Laurel, and the alternative sounds like yoni.

  15. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    petrushka,

    I have my Roku set for captions, but many shows have captions done so sloppily that I can hear better than the captioner. This happens most often with uncommon words or people’s names, where context and familiarity with literature give clues.

    My mom uses captions, and they really are terrible. They do add a comedic element to otherwise boring shows, though.

    You get a lot of stuff along the lines of “for all intensive purposes”.

  16. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    When I first came across the slider tool, I was curious to see if there was hysteresis. In other words, I wondered whether the shift from “Yanny” to “Laurel” — discovered by moving the slider to the left — would occur at a different point than the shift from “Laurel” to “Yanny”, based on priming effects.

    In practice (for me, anyway), it’s impossible to tell. There’s a large range of slider positions over which I can hear both “Yanny” and “Laurel” simultaneously.

    Is that true for other folks?

  17. petrushka
    Ignored
    says:

    This is a case where normies are cursed with an auditory illusion.

  18. colewd
    Ignored
    says:

    keiths,

    In practice (for me, anyway), it’s impossible to tell. There’s a large range of slider positions over which I can hear both “Yanny” and “Laurel” simultaneously.

    Is that true for other folks?

    Above the mean position I start hearing noise The shift to Yanny was 3 positions above the mean but over time it dropped to 2 positions above the mean.

    I do agree the shift point changes depending which direction you are changing positions toward or away from the mean.

  19. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    walto: “Darwin is Satan! His followers are deranged devil-worshipers!”

    Design can be detected in life, just use the definition produced to redefine life as designed.

    Anything else is wrong, theists know it, and only they could know.

    Glen Davidson

  20. Mung Mung
    Ignored
    says:

    GlenDavidson: Design can be detected in life, just use the definition produced to redefine life as designed.

    Anything else is wrong, theists know it, and only they could know.

    No Glen, that is false.

    GlenDavidson: It’s a truth thing. You’d never understand it.

    The irony is killing me.

  21. GlenDavidson
    Ignored
    says:

    This is interesting for changing according to what word you think about, “green-needle” or “brainstorm.” It works for me fairly well, although “brainstorm” isn’t as clear for me.

    Glen Davidson

  22. keiths keiths
    Ignored
    says:

    Glen:

    …although “brainstorm” isn’t as clear for me.

    Yeah, it sounds more like “brainstone” to me.

    Perhaps that’s what Mung has.

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