One colleague played an audio, I heard “Yanny”. But my other colleagues heard “Laurel”.
If you were on social media a couple of days ago, you also likely witnessed the viral audio clip that, depending on the listener resonates like one word or the other, or in some conditions, both. So what is this strange phenomena the human body making people hear two contrasting words from the same audio clip?
Some experts say it comes down to the frequencies we perceive and, more importantly, the frequencies we anticipate to hear.
Cloe Feldman, the woman who posted the viral “Yanny” versus “Laurel” tweet, said in a YouTube video that she doesn’t know who the creator of the clip is. She did her research and found out the creator which is explained in her YouTube Video.
According to Brad Story from the University of Arizona’s Speech Acoustics and Physiology Lab. “I’m pretty sure the original recording was ‘laurel,'” he says. The reason it can be confused is that there is a family of frequencies produced by the shape of our throat and mouth
The three lowest frequencies are used to encode language as a sound wave. The third frequency distinguishes between l and r. This frequency is high for l, like at the beginning and end of “laurel,” and low for r, as in the middle of “laurel.”
To test this, Story recorded his own voice pronouncing both words and found similarities in the sound patterns for “Yanny” and “Laurel.” Because the original audio clip isn’t clear, it leaves room for interpretation—and that’s where the mental controversy kicks in.
Also according to Jason Levine, Principal Worldwide Evangelist at Adobe, there are 3 reasons why it is happening.
1. Audio (and all) perception is subjective
“You hear what you want to hear” is an important lesson for filmmakers to remember. While, yes, there are subjectively measurable aspects that pertain to audio, processing audio is done via the brain and uses not just the sound, but also our expectations of that sound, helping to analyze the content of what’s actually there.
2. Hardware for playback matters
Not every speaker is going to play back the full frequency response of sound, and as a result, this leads to different perceptions of that sound. One unproven theory on “Yanny vs. Laurel” is that listeners who hear more high frequencies tend to hear “yanny,” while those with less high-end response in their hearing hear “laurel.”
3. High-end hearing loss happens with age
Hearing loss is a natural part of life, only getting worse due to the prevalence of headphones played too loudly. If you and your team are all 20-year-olds, it’s worth finding a few folks in their 50s to attend some of your test screenings. Why? To ensure that they’re still able to understand your dialogue and score without the high-end frequencies they have likely lost due to age.
As the clip spreads across social media, however, it may be getting harder to find truly unbiased listeners.
There’s no right answer, It doesn’t have to be one or the other.
Cloe Feldman YouTube Channel