What do you hear?
When analyzing Yanny vs. Laurel, we first must take into consideration the quality of the recording as well as how people are listening to it. The original recording was low quality, which can leave a lot of ambiguity for your ears. The various ways and devices people are listening to the clip can also change the way the recording sounds: phones, headphones, speakers, etc.
Another thing to consider is the expectation the listener has while hearing the recording. If you weren’t prompted to choose Yanny or Laurel, you may have heard neither while listening. This leading expectation is called priming.
However, the real mystery of Yanny vs. Laurel lies with sound frequency. The sound waves that allow us to hear Yanny is at a higher frequency, whereas the sound waves that allow us hear Laurel are at a lower frequency. As we age, it’s common that we start losing our ability to hear the higher frequency sounds. It wouldn’t be surprising if someone younger hears Yanny while someone older listening through the same device hears Laurel. Adjusting the pitch of the original recording allows us to hear both Yanny and Laurel. If you adjust the pitch down 30% you can hear Yanny, whereas if you bring the pitch up 30% Laurel is clearly heard.
High frequency sounds include:
Low frequency sounds include:
So…what is the correct answer? If you are part of the 53% that said Laurel, you are correct. Don’t believe us? See for yourself - the audio originated on Vocabulary.com as one of 200,000 recorded reference pronounciations.