Because we just couldn’t get enough of that damned is-it-blue-or-is-it-gold dress, the Internet has returned with a new illusion, this time in audio form. The question breaking the Internet today is a simple one: do you hear Yanny or Laurel?
The seemingly obvious question is currently making the rounds on Twitter, but it originally appeared as an Instagram poll before inciting “black magic fuckery” on Reddit.
Take a listen for yourself.
What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel pic.twitter.com/jvHhCbMc8I
— Cloe Feldman (@CloeCouture) 15 May 2018
The IFLS San Francisco office came up with different results, albeit we all clearly heard “Yanny” the first time around, but were able to also detect where “Laurel” came into play. That’s because, as one Reddit user pointed out, it has to do with different audio wave frequencies paired with how we are able to perceive them based on factors such as age or type of speakers.
As assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience Lars Riecke told The Verge, it’s not actually an illusion, but instead an ambiguous figure, which is the “auditory equivalent of two figures in a profile that forms a vase” called a Rubin’s vase. In short, it really is all about frequency. Yanny is made up of a higher frequency than the acoustic information that makes us hear Laurel. As Reddit user Juuular also pointed out, Reicke says the audio system playing the sound can add to its variation, as well as the mechanics in your ear.
Older adults tend to lose their hearing of lower frequencies first, which could explain why we (in our late twenties) were all able to hear the higher-pitched Yanny first. You can also manipulate this process on your computer by removing either low frequencies (to hear Yanny) or high frequencies (to hear Laurel).
What you’re expecting to hear can also manipulate your answer. Try listening again, this time focusing instead on the word you didn’t hear.
If you noticed a change then you’re not alone; the visual cue accompanying the sound could influence what you’re hearing. Our visual and auditory systems work together to help us identify what’s going on in our external world. Depending on the first word that you see, your brain could be filling in what it believes the sound should say.
Furthermore, everything we hear is shaped by our previous experiences, which is why your favorite pop song might sound like music to you, but just “noise” to your grandparents.
Team Yanny or Team Laurel? We’ll leave that up to you.