MAY 19, 2018 4:07 PM PDT

The neuroscience behind Laurel vs. Yanny


Neuroscientist Tyler Perrachione, an Assistant Professor at Boston University, explains the science behind the soundbite that's taken the internet by a storm in the last few days. But first off, are you a Laurel or a Yanny?

Perrachione explains that because the soundbite is distorted, it leaves spaces for the power of suggestion to enter into the equation of what the frequencies actually convey to our ears. What with everyone talking about it, when you go to listen to the clip, you already enter with some idea of what you should be hearing.

When you say the word Laurel out loud, you are emitting lower frequencies than compared to you when say Yanny, which emits higher frequencies. But the pitch of the sound in the clip isn't actually changing, just the emphasize on frequencies. So why is it then that some people can hear both, or maybe that it changes from one moment to the other?

Some people have trouble hearing higher frequencies, which could be for several reasons (getting up in age, too many rock concerts, loud background noise). Even different sets of headphones could pick up higher or lower frequencies, says Perrachione, which could affect the word you hear. Want to learn more about this soundbite gone viral? Watch the video!
About the Author
  • Kathryn is a curious world-traveller interested in the intersection between nature, culture, history, and people. She has worked for environmental education non-profits and is a Spanish/English interpreter.
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