Yanny or Laurel
"Yanny or Laurel" is an auditory illusion of a re-recording of a vocabulary word plus added background sounds, also mixed into the recording, which became popular in May 2018. In the brief audio recording, 53 percent of over 500,000 respondents to a Twitter poll reported hearing a man saying the word "Laurel", while 47 percent reported hearing a voice saying the name "Yanny". Analysis of the sound frequencies has confirmed that both sets of sounds are present in the mixed recording, but some users focus on the higher frequency sounds in "Yanny" and cannot seem to hear the lower sounds of the word "Laurel". When the audio clip has been slowed to lower frequencies, then the word "Yanny" has been heard by more listeners, while faster playback loudens "Laurel".
The mixed re-recording was created by students who played the sound of the word "laurel" (a laurel wreath), while re-recording the playback amid background noise in the room. The audio clip of the main word "laurel" originated in 2007 from a recording of Jay Aubrey Jones, an opera singer, who spoke the word "laurel" as one of 200,000 reference pronunciations produced and published by www.vocabulary.com in 2007. The clip was made at Jones's home using a laptop and microphone, with surrounding foam to help soundproof the recording.
The discovery of the ambiguity phenomenon is attributed to Katie Hetzel, a 15-year-old freshman at Flowery Branch High School, near Atlanta, Georgia, who posted a description publicly on Instagram on May 11, 2018. The illusion reached further popularity when the student's friend posted it on Reddit the next day. It was picked up by YouTuber Cloe Feldman on her Twitter account.
Notable individuals who responded to the auditory illusion included Ellen DeGeneres, Stephen King, and Chrissy Teigen. Laurel Halo and Yanni, whose names are similar to those given in the auditory illusion, also responded. In a video released by the White House, various members of the Trump administration reacted to the meme, and President Donald Trump said, "I hear covfefe", as a reference to his "covfefe" tweet the previous year.
In The Guardian, the clip was compared to the 2015 gold/blue dress controversy. Several days after the clip became popular, the team at Vocabulary.com added a separate entry for the word "Yanny", which contained an audio clip identical to "Laurel". Its definition is about the Internet trend.
On May 17, a similar viral story grew around a recording of a man saying "brainstorm" which many heard as "green needle".
On May 16, 2018, a report in The New York Times noted a spectrogram analysis confirmed how the extra sounds for "yanny" can be graphed in the mixed re-recording. The sounds also were simulated by combining syllables of the same Vocabulary.com voice saying the words "Yangtze" and "uncanny" as a mash-up of sounds which gave a similar spectrogram as the extra sounds graphed in the laurel re-recording.
Benjamin Munson, a professor of audiology at the University of Minnesota, suggested that "Yanny" can be heard in higher frequencies while "Laurel" can be heard in lower frequencies. Older people, whose ability to hear higher frequencies is more likely to have degraded, usually hear "Laurel". Kevin Franck, the director of audiology at the Boston hospital Massachusetts Eye and Ear says that the clip exists on a "perceptual boundary" and compared it to the Necker Cube illusion. Professor David Alais from the University of Sydney's school of psychology also compared the clip to the Necker Cube or the face/vase illusion, calling it a "perceptually ambiguous stimulus". Brad Story, a professor of speech, language, and audiology at the University of Arizona said that the low quality of the recording creates ambiguity. Dr. Hans Rutger Bosker, psycholinguist and phonetician at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, showed that it is possible to make the same person hear the same audio clip differently by presenting it in different acoustic contexts: if one hears the ambiguous audio clip after a lead-in sentence without any high frequencies (>1000 Hz), this makes the higher frequencies in the following ambiguous audio clip stand out more, making people report "Yanny" where they previously maybe heard "Laurel".
By pitch shifting the original audio to higher or lower frequencies, the same listener can report different interpretations. The New York Times released an interactive tool on their website that changes the pitch of the recording in real-time. The interactive slider allows the recording to be played back at any pitch between 3 semitones higher (to help the listener hear "Laurel"), and 6 semitones lower (to help the listener hear "Yanny").
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- Kirby, Jen (May 16, 2018). "Why you hear "Laurel" or "Yanny" in that viral audio clip, explained". Vox. Archived from the original on May 16, 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
- Salam, Maya; Victor, Daniel (May 15, 2018). "Laurel or Yanny? What We Heard From the Experts". The New York Times. Archived from the original on May 17, 2018. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
- Josh Katz; Jonathan Corum and Jon Huang (May 16, 2018). "We Made a Tool So You Can Hear Both Yanny and Laurel". The New York Times. Retrieved June 1, 2018.
playing the "laurel" clip over speakers and re-recording it introduced noise and exaggerated the higher frequencies.
- Josh Katz; Jonathan Corum and Jon Huang (May 16, 2018). "We Made a Tool So You Can Hear Both Yanny and Laurel". The New York Times.
playing the “laurel” clip over speakers and re-recording it introduced noise and exaggerated the higher frequencies.
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- Katie Hetzel, 15 yr old Flowery Branch High Freshman interview with Francesca Amiker on 11alive.com Archived May 29, 2018, at the Wayback Machine (published to YouTube on May 18, 2018)
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- "Laurel, Yanny or ... covfefe? White House joins in on debate". Chicago Tribune. Associated Press. May 17, 2018. Retrieved May 18, 2018.
- "Donald Trump weighs in on the Yanny or Laurel debate". YouTube. Guardian News. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
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- Molloy, Mark (May 18, 2018). "Brainstorm or Green Needle? How the latest audio riddle tricks your brain". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 28, 2020.; Cvorak, Monika; Bullock, James (May 18, 2018). "The new Yanny/Laurel: do you hear brainstorm or green needle?". The Guardian. Retrieved January 28, 2020.; "We Can't Trust Our Ears Anymore Now The 'Brainstorm'/'Green Needle' Auditory Illusion Is Breaking Our Brains". digg.com. Archived from the original on May 21, 2018. Retrieved May 21, 2018.; "Beyond Yanny or Laurel: 6 Other Aural Illusions and How They Work". www.mentalfloss.com. May 21, 2018. Retrieved January 28, 2020.
- Salam, Maya; Victor, Daniel (May 15, 2018). "Yanny or Laurel? How a Sound Clip Divided America". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 10, 2019.
- Ducharme, Jamie (May 16, 2018). "An Audiologist Explains Why You Hear 'Yanny' or 'Laurel' — Or Both". Time. Archived from the original on May 16, 2018. Retrieved May 16, 2018.
- "The Psychology of Laurel and Yanny". Psychology Today. Retrieved May 29, 2018.
- Gutman, Rachel (May 15, 2018). "A Linguist Explains Why 'Laurel' Sounds Like 'Yanny'". The Atlantic. Archived from the original on May 16, 2018. Retrieved May 17, 2018.