Tags: yanny | laurel | audio | debate

Yanny or Laurel? Fierce Debate Rises Over Audio Clip a la 'The Dress'

By    |   Wednesday, 16 May 2018 10:39 AM

Yanny or Laurel? The latest internet dispute has people arguing about the word being said in a viral audio clip, reminiscent of the 2015 viral photo "The Dress," which left people wondering if their eyes were playing tricks on them.

The Yanny/Laurel debate went viral after it first emerged on the social media network Reddit this week, Time magazine noted. It was later posted on Twitter, where it was liked more than 75,000 times as of Wednesday and commented on 51,000 times.

David Alais, a professor at the University of Sydney's School of Psychology, told The Guardian that it is an example of "perceptually ambiguous stimulus" such as the Necker cube or the face/vase illusion.

"They can be seen in two ways, and often the mind flips back and forth between the two interpretations," Alais told The Guardian. "This happens because the brain can't decide on a definitive interpretation. 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. All of this goes to highlight just how much the brain is an active interpreter of sensory input, and thus that the external world is less objective than we like to believe," Alais continued.

For the record, Alais told The Guardian he hears "Yanny" 100 percent of the time without any ambiguity.

He said that is probably because at 52 his ears lack high frequency sensitivity, a natural result of aging, and secondly, a difference in pronunciation between the North American accented computer-generated Yanny and Laurel and how the words would naturally be spoken in Australian or British English.

The Atlantic reported that the change in the recording's pitch could adjust what someone hears, with "Yanny" being heard in lower pitched recordings and "Laurel" in a higher pitch recording.

The debate is reminiscent of the social media debate over a photo of a dress, where some viewers saw a white and gold dress and other blue and black in 2015, Wired magazine wrote. That debate happened, according to some experts, based on how our eyes took in light.

"What's happening here is your visual system is looking at this thing, and you're trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis," Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist who studies color and vision at Wellesley College, told Wired then.

"So people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black," Conway continued.

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An audio clip has people debating whether the word being said is "Yanny" or "Laurel," in the latest dispute to sweep the internet, this time leaving people wondering whether they can trust their ears.
yanny, laurel, audio, debate
Wednesday, 16 May 2018 10:39 AM
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