MOUNT LAUREL, N.J. (CBS/CNN) – It’s been a huge debate all day: is it “laurel” or “yanny?”
Some people who listen to this audio file hear one thing; others hear something completely different. It’s like it was put on the internet just to sow discord.
The audio debate is dividing the internet.
“I hear laurel,” said Corinne Picard of Norristown.
“It said yanny, definitely,” Fewa Ayodeji said.
Our Chantee Lans made a stop in Mount Laurel, New Jersey to see what people were hearing. Many were mixed on “yanny” and “laurel”
“I think that the original recording was supposed to be laurel,” said cognitive psychologist and Villanova University assistant professor doctor Joe Toscano.
Toscano and his students analyzed the sound.
“So this is called a spectrogram. This is the way that we measure speech sounds,” said Toscano.
He says it all came down to similarities in pronouncing and interpreting some of the letters.
“So the ‘l’ in laurel and the ‘yuh’ in yanny are very similar to each other in specific ways with the sound patterns them-self,” he says. “There’s a similar thing happening with the ‘n’ and the ‘r’ later on in the word too, and again if you missed that cue, you’ll hear the ‘r’ as an ‘n’ and so get from laurel to yanny.”
Also, the distance you hear from and the listening device matters.
“If I listen to it on a phone versus on a computer, or on the radio, or any kind of other different kinds of speakers, it changes what I heard,” Toscano says.
Pitch also matters.
If you hear yanny, you may have interpreted a higher pitch. If you hear laurel the pitch is lower.
The debacle was like an audio version of “The Dress” — a photo that went viral in 2015 when no one could agree whether the garment it showed was white and gold or blue and black, confirming that people will debate just about anything on the internet.