An international crisis has emerged and its tearing apart family and friends. It's worse than 'the dress' conundrum (probably because there is only one right answer) and it involves a short sound clip of a robotic man's voice repeating the same word again and again. The debate comes in where some people hear the man saying "Laurel" and others hear it saying "Yanny" (even though it clearly says Laurel). Some people claim they can hear Yanny when it is played through their laptop speakers but Laurel through their phones, apparently it all has to do with the frequency of the sound.
The clip of only 4 seconds long already has 6-million views and 26,000 retweets, even celebrities have joined in with Chrissy Teigen and Ellen De Generes hearing Laurel and Emmy Rossum hearing Yanny.
Bharath Chandrasekaran, an associate professor at The University of Texas conducted the study and found that his participants were divided exactly in the middle. He says that people may hear it differently depending on the speaker or earphone. Good quality headphones have a flat frequency response and don’t filter the sound but the cheaper the headphone, earbud or computer speaker, "the less reliable the quality of the audio." As a result, "your brain makes all kinds of predictions” about what it thinks you’re hearing, he said.
Kevin Cureghian, an audio engineer, assigns it to the difference in speakers. "Any speaker that can replicate enough 'low end' or 'bass' – you will most likely hear Laurel. But any speaker that doesn't reproduce lots of low end (smaller size speakers in general), you will most probably hear Yanny." Cureghian tested the speaker theory by putting a low pass filter into his audio software program on the file. With the low pass filter, he heard Laurel, but when he set it with a high pass filter, to add in the high frequencies, "you will hear Yanny. I guarantee it."
It also depends on the individual and whether they focus on hearing the lower or higher frequencies in a sound clip, therefore, its all based on our perception. Similar to the way some people saw a blue and black dress while others saw a white and gold one depending on the way your brain interpreted the colour.
It all depends on your hearing sensitivities, whether you have hearing loss, the audio-processing regions of your brain, and your expectations, as Dana Boebinger, who studies the neural basis of auditory perception, explained on Twitter. The clip provides enough information for us to reach more than one conclusion but our biases influence which interpretation we choose to hear.
One conclusion both the dress and the sound clip helped us make is that for every sense, and every element of human judgement, there are illusions and vagueness we interpret based on our own unique factors.