Forget ‘The Dress.’ This is much worse. A new viral audio clip has the Internet losing its dang mind. So, what do you hear – ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’?
Yes, this is real. Yes, people are flipping out over this. Yes, this is real (it was necessary to establish that a second time before proceeding.) The latest round of Internet madness happened after Cloe Feldman, a “social media influencer and vlogger,” according to Vox, felt that she’d like to watch the world burn. “What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel,” she posted to her Instagram story, before cross-positing it to Twitter on May 14. The clip features a computerized voice saying something that some think is “Laurel” while others think is “Yanny.”
What followed was either a civil war between the Lauren-ites and Yanny-devotees, self-gaslighting by people who can’t trust their own years, or a two-minute discussion before people went on with their lives (until the next viral sensation comes along.) Whether or not this turns to be as prolific as The Dress meme – where some people saw white and gold while others saw black and blue – remains to be seen. Or, in this case, heard.
Before anyone loses their mind over how the same audio can sound like two different things, in comes the science! It didn’t take long for nerds to figure out what was going on. One theory from Reddit suggested that it depends on the amount of bass that is being produced from someone’s listening device. Steve Pomero, from @XXV, actually showcased how by shifting the audio’s pitch, something that starts off as “Laurel” ends up sounding like “Yanny” and vice-versa. Listen to the audio clip in the tweet below.
What do you hear?! Yanny or Laurel pic.twitter.com/jvHhCbMc8I
— Cloe Feldman (@CloeCouture) May 15, 2018
Ok, so if you pitch-shift it you can hear different things:
— Steve Pomeroy (@xxv) May 15, 2018
The input can be organized in two alternative ways,” Lars Riecke, an assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University, told The Verge. The sound is am ambiguous figure, much like those optical illusions (“is this picture a vase? Is it really two faces? Is this a butterfly or is it really the face of Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant?”) The key is frequency, as the acoustic information that lets someone hear “Yanny” is at a higher frequency than the info that allows someone to hear “Laurel.” Plus, older adults start losing the ability to hear sounds at higher frequency ranges. Lars heard “Laurel,” but his eight-year-old daughter could hear “Yanny.”
So, what do you hear?