Yanny or Laurel: Confusing internet game, Frequency or Audio Pareidolia?

20th May 2018. Reading Time: 1 minute General. 1808 page views. 1 comments.

The internet has been divided this past week over a 4 second audio file which asked the question Yanny or Laurel? While confusing to a lot of people, it was smartly done using a mix of frequency and audio pareidolia. So how does it all work?

The internet has been divided over the last week over the whole Yanny or Laurel debate. A 4-second audio clip was generated and asked the question, does this voice say Yanny or Laurel? It very quickly went viral. Of course, people are confused because some hear Yanny and some hear Laurel. Apart from the fact that already the power of suggestion could be in play here because you are told what to hear, another explanation has also been offered by audiology and psychology experts.


The first explanation has to do with frequency. The file has been analyzed by a profession of audition and cognitive neuroscience and it was found that the word Yanny was created using a higher frequency than the word Laurel. The older you become, you can’t hear the higher frequencies. It means that older people are more likely to hear the word Laurel while younger people are more like to hear Yanny. If you open up the sound file used, you can actually manipulate the frequencies and suddenly your perception of what you can hear. By changing the frequency by even just 30%, you suddenly start to hear it differently.


Another explanation goes down the line of audio pareidolia. We know that our brain can interpret things it is not quite understanding. The recording is not that of a real voice. It is a synthesized voice. While certain phenoms are highlighted, others are missing and your brain is filling in the blanks. A seed has been planted telling you that it either says Yanny or Laurel. Your brain is filling in the blanks and interpreting it for you. You could listen to it and swear you hear Yanny. Someone will tell you, but I hear Laurel? If you listen to it again, you suddenly hear Laurel. You become confused. This is exactly what the creator of this file has intended.

Whatever you think you hear, it is a simple trick used to get people talking, and it was a success. It highlights to us just how easily our brains can be manipulated through sound and frequency. Definitely worth something to consider, especially when we do so much audio work within our field.

So I have to ask, what do you hear? Yanny or Laurel?

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  • Adria 6 years ago

    Please let me play