We have a new version of “The Dress.”
On Tuesday, the internet, offices across America and even researchers spent their time debating whether a sound clip uttered the word “Yanny” or “Laurel.”
Listen to the original clip in the tweet below.
The clip originally surfaced on Reddit before it found its way to Twitter, according to Time.
No matter what you heard, there’s been a fierce debate about whether the voice says “Yanny” or “Laurel.” This reporter heard “Yanny” on first listen but then heard “Laurel” later Tuesday night.
Social media went crazy debating the news.
Experts have begun to weigh in on what causes people to hear two different words.
Professor David Alais from the University of Sydney’s school of psychology told The Guardian it’s a case of “perceptually ambiguous stimulus,” which happens when the brain can’t make up its mind about what it hears.
“They can be seen in two ways, and often the mind flips back and forth between the two interpretations,” he said. “If there is little ambiguity, the brain locks on to a single perceptual interpretation. Here, the Yanny/Laurel sound is meant to be ambiguous because each sound has a similar timing and energy content — so in principle it’s confusable.”
Meanwhile, another suggestion proposes that the audio’s frequency may influence your decision about what you hear, according to The Verge.
Age may also play a role. People who can hear at higher frequencies were more likely to hear “Yanny,” while those who hear lower frequencies heard “Laurel.” Older people tend to lose their hearing earlier than young people, meaning they are more likely to hear “Laurel.”
It’s even possible some can hear both, according to The Verge.
“So if your sound card — or your ears — emphasize both the higher and the lower frequencies, you can toggle between the two sounds,” according to The Verge. “And changing the sound mix to emphasize higher or lower frequencies might tip you toward ‘Laurel’ or ‘Yanny.’”
Raul Veiga, CEO of production company Radial Produções, told BuzzFeed News this could also be a case of the McGurk Effect, where visual cues impact your hearing.
“So … it’s actually a very poor-quality recording and the brain gets influenced by what you read first, before you actually hear it. What gets people confused is that it’s not Yanny or Laurel, it’s more of a ‘Yarel’ thing,” he said.
Experiences also play a role. If people around you keep hearing “Yanny,” then it might influence your brain’s choice to hear that word.
It’s similar to singing along to a radio song when the signal is bad, said Alex Holcombe, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Sydney.
“When you hear a song you know on the radio but you get farther and farther from the station, so it dissolves into static, even when it is practically all static, you may notice you can still ‘hear’ the song because the brain fills a lot of it in for your experience,” Holcombe told BuzzFeed.