Laurel or Yanny? Why you can only hear one name in divisive video – and how to hear the other

It is actually both

Andrew Griffin
Wednesday 16 May 2018 13:05 BST
The Yanny or Laurel debate explained

Do you hear Yanny or Laurel? The correct answer is both.

The internet is being torn apart by a new argument over whether a strange recording of a robot is actually saying "Yanny" or "Laurel".

The answer, however, is that the robot is saying both. And a whole host of factors decide whether you hear one or the other.

The recording is actually two voices laid on top of each other, saying both words. Your brain is unable to hear both at once, so picks between the two – and that decides which one you hear.

As a result, people who hear one are absolutely certain that the other one is present. That has led to people falling out over which one the voice is saying, with some claiming that the other side is simply making it up.

The divide can be bridged, however. It is actually possible to hear both sounds.

And just as it did with The Dress, which side of the debate you are on might reveal far more about you than you realise.

The difference seems to arise because the voice that says "Laurel" is deeper than the one that says "Yanny". So people will be predisposed to hearing one or the other, for a variety of reasons.

Younger people, for instance, are generally better at hearing higher sounds. So younger people will be more likely to hear the Yanny voice.

It also depends on what speakers or headphones you are listening through, too. If your headphones are more tinny, then the voice saying Yanny will stand out more; if the opposite is true, Laurel will be louder.

Volume also seems to make a difference. Turning the sound up seems to make it easier to hear the Laurel voice, at least for some people, for instance.

And, ultimately, the difference is one of interpretation. If you try and hear the sounds of the other name – the "ee" sound in Yanny, for instance, or the harder "L" at the star of "Laurel" – and do so with an open mind, then you might simply be able to trick your mind into switching to the other word.

The strange thing is that – just like "The Dress" – while it is possible to switch between the sounds it is very difficult indeed to do so on demand, or to actually see both at once. By following the above tips and forcing yourself to hear the other name, you might actually find it quite difficult to get back.

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