Productivity around the world took a massive dive yesterday as people started debating whether they could hear the word “yanny” or “laurel” in a four-second audio clip which took over the internet.
It’s #TheDress all over again. So how did we get here?
Only a psychologist specialising in mass hysteria can fully answer that question. But internet sleuths have revealed the origin of the maddening clip.
In case you somehow haven’t heard it, here’s the tweet that went viral:
But that audio clip has actually been hiding in plain sight for who knows how long at Vocabulary.com.
Go to the page for “laurel” (yep, that’s officially the word in the clip) and click the audio icon. You’ll hear that all-too-familiar sound.
The audio clip was picked up by Reddit on May 12 — specifically, on a post by RolandCamry at the suitably titled subreddit r/blackmagicf**kery.
Apparently, RolandCamry is an 18-year-old high school student from Georgia in the US:
Erin McCann tweet: “The Times traced the clip back to Roland Szabo, an 18-year-old high school student in Lawrenceville, Ga., who posts as RolandCamry on Reddit”
His Reddit post attracted 1,104 comments and basically they said the same things that you’ve probably already heard ad nauseum in your office’s kitchen (“I can’t hear yanny no matter what I try”, “I hear yanny no matter the device or volume”, “I can hear them both simultaneously”, etc.)
For what it’s worth, the top comment with 1,439 points was this one by abcdefgaryyy:
“I hear Laurel and everyone is a liar.”
So why do half of us hear one thing and half of us another?
Basically, if you hear “yanny”, you’re hearing acoustic information from a higher frequency.
If you hear “laurel”, you’re hearing acoustic information from a lower frequency.
“The input can be organised in two alternative ways,” Lars Riecke, an assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University, told The Verge.
The explanation is that as we get older, we tend to start losing our hearing at higher frequency ranges.
So while the audio clip was made for the word laurel, it would appear Team Yanny has the better hearing.
@chrissyteigen tweet: “it’s so clearly laurel. I can’t even figure out how one would hear yanny.”
@jonkudelka tweet: “Whenever I see Laurel I read Laurel. I just typed Laurel then but some people will read it as Laurel while others will read it as Laurel.”
Ellen tweet: Literally everything at my show just stopped to see if people hear Laurel or Yanny. I hear Laurel.