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The Science Behind the ‘Yanny vs. Laurel’ Debate (& Who’s Right!)

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If you haven’t been paying attention to Internet trends this week, the “Yanny vs. Laurel” meme is basically the audio recording equivalent of “The Dress.” You’ll recall that half the Internet saw “The Dress” as white and gold, while the other half saw it as black and blue.

And it tore us all APART.

The ‘Yanny vs. Laurel’ meme is similar to “The Dress” in that half the Internet hears a voice saying “Laurel,” while the other half clearly hears the word “Yanny” — and some poor souls have even claimed to have heard “Yanny” AND “Laurel” at separate times.

This audio illusion is almost MORE infuriating to the Internet than “The Dress” because how can two words that sound completely different when we say them out loud be so misheard?! Luckily, science is here to save us all from our confused misery and Internet arguments with strangers…

Cognitive neuroscience professor Lars Riecke explained to The Verge that the audio illusion of Yanny vs. Laurel ACTUALLY has to do with frequency and pitch. According to him, the “acoustic information that makes us hear Yanny is higher frequency than the acoustic information that makes us hear Laurel. Some of the variation may be due to the audio system playing the sound, but some of it is also the mechanics of your ears, and what you’re expecting to hear.”

TRANSLATION: It’s the crappy quality of the recording and also your ears’ fault.

Brad Story, Professor of Speech, Language and Hearing at The University of Arizona, also explained the phenomenon to CNN, saying, “If you have a low quality of recording, it’s not surprising some people would confuse the second and third resonances flipped around, and hear Yanny instead of Laurel… Most likely the original recording was Laurel.”

So, there you have it, folks. It’s Laurel!

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