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Here's What Scientists Have To Say About That "Yanny" And "Laurel" Recording

Like the photo of ~The Dress~, the "Yanny" and "Laurel" recording is a low-quality piece of media and it's messing with your brain.

Last updated on May 15, 2018, at 8:30 p.m. ET

Posted on May 15, 2018, at 8:18 p.m. ET

OK. If you're here, you've probably heard this recording and you want to know more.

If not, listen to it 10,000 times and decide whether you fall on the side of light or darkness.

So why are people hearing different things??


Some people modulated the bass levels in the recording to investigate.

The "Yanny" bit is in a higher and more nasal pitch, whereas "Laurel" is in a bass register.

@CloeCouture you can hear both when you adjust the bass levels:

But what exactly these videos tell us is unclear.

View this video on YouTube

Luckily, we have ~science~ to explain it to us.


Science can't decide for you if you're more of a "Yanny" or a "Laurel," but it can explain why you're getting in fights with your coworkers about it.

The recording is like the viral photo of the dress that appeared blue and black to some and white and gold to others (it was actually blue and black irl), according to several experts who spoke to BuzzFeed News. The recording itself is pretty low-quality, so your brain fills in the gaps between discernible sounds, just like it did with the colors of the dress because the original photo was taken in weak lighting.

Raul Veiga, CEO of production company Radial Produções, said it's an example of the McGurk Effect — when you hear something different from the actual sound because of visual stimulus.

"’s actually a very poor-quality recording and the brain gets influenced by what you read first, before you actually hear it. What gets people confused is that it’s not Yanny or Laurel, it’s more of a 'Yarel' thing," he said.

The device you're using to listen to it can also have an effect.

"Different speakers or headphones can have drastically different frequency response profiles (for instance, laptop speakers have limited low-frequency response), which will lead to either name being more emphasized to a listener," Poppy Crum, chief scientist at Dolby Laboratories, said in a statement.

The part you're arguing with the people from sales about is when someone else's brain fills in one thing while your brain fills in another. That ambiguity is how you get "Yanny" and "Laurel" and even "Yammy," as one of my (clearly wrong) coworkers said. That's also why you might have heard "Yanny" first and then "Laurel" once someone told you that was what they heard.

"The reason these differential illusions like the dress and this recording are interesting is because they show how the brain does this, namely by combining incoming information with assumptions," Pascal Wallisch, a professor of psychology at New York University, said.

Or you know that thing where you can still sing along to a song even when the radio signal is terrible? It's like that.

"When you hear a song you know on the radio but you get farther and farther from the station, so it dissolves into static, even when it is practically all static," Alex Holcombe, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Sydney, said, "you may notice you can still 'hear' the song because the brain fills a lot of it in for your experience."

So now you know why you heard what you heard, but do you know which side of history you stand on??

Julia Reinstein and Virginia Hughes contributed to this report.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.