GONE VIRAL: Audio Clip Spurs Social Media Debate Over ‘Yanny’ Or ‘Laurel’

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Do you hear what I hear?

That was the question Wednesday as a short audio clip sparked a social media debate about whether the word being heard is “yanny” or “laurel.” How one hears it is similar to how people viewed a dress on the internet three years ago and raised questions of whether the mind and ear can be out of sync.

The scientific explanation centers more on the quality of the recording and the resonance of speech sounds.

“This is a relatively low quality signal that is played over a variety of devices and the sound was developed to be on a perceptual border,” said Todd Ricketts of Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s Hearing and Speech Sciences Department.

“For example, with a full-range higher quality speaker, I clearly only hear laurel, but over my computer speakers, I clearly only hear yanny,” Ricketts said.

Alicia Spoor, president of the Academy of Doctors of Audiology, agreed the quality was not good. She said the complicated answer has to do with “resonance of the speech sounds.”

“When you say the word “yanny” and “laurel,” the waveform looks very similar for the first band of energy resonance. However, there is a significant difference in the second and third resonances of the two words, which is how humans interpret the words,” she said.

The debate began on Reddit and expanded throughout social media. Ellen DeGeneres tweeted that everything at her show stopped to see what people heard. She said she heard laurel. But New Age musician Yanni was in the yanny camp. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan said he’d like “to declare something that is just so obvious: It is laurel and not yanny.”

Some speculated online that the age of the listener might determine what was heard, while others changed the pitch to alter results.

“Age can play a role, as well as expectations, Spoor said. However, she still heard “laurel” when she changed the pitch.

For an analogy, she cited the 1969 Creedence Clearwater Revival song “Bad Moon Rising:” ”There’s a bad moon on the rise” versus “there’s a bathroom on the right.”

As for the dress that caused an earlier commotion, some people said it was white and gold, while others saw blue and black.

(AP)




2 COMMENTS

  1. Ummmm- okay — I just had a dream that YWN featured an article about something that went viral on social media, complete with references to other even more un-befitting viral media sensations from years past, off-color song lyrics, and even honorable mention of several other [e.g. Ellen] Degenerate celebrities. And then I woke up and found out it was just a dream. Or did I???I thought I read it, but maybe I did not! When I read it again, twisting sideways and leaning a little over my left shoulder, it turned to to be a perfectly routine article about a virus called Yanny Laurel being studied at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Phew! Let’s forward this article all over and see what other people think they read. Was it an article that got ripped off of AOL News, or was it an article about a medical issue that we need to know?

  2. While I did find it surprising that YWN would print(?) some of the stuff in the article,
    I fail to see why a dress-color (it was modest and wasn’t on anyone) dispute is unbefitting,
    and would also like to point out the “bathroom” lyric is not the real one, so it’s actually an
    off-color mondegreen rather than a lyric (how off-color are restroom directions, anyway?).

    (Also, we don’t know what Yanni heard – he was obviously making a joke.)