Thursday, May 17, 2018

Say What?

A few years ago there was "the dress," where people couldn't agree what its colors were.

Now there's a new controversy.  What does this sound like to you?

Apparently, people either hear "Yanny" or "Laurel."

I admit I don't get it.  It sounds like Yanny to me. I've tried, but I can't hear Laurel.

Yet many have come down on the side of Laurel, and even claim they think those who hear Yanny are joking.

In fact, millions have been listening, and apparently Laurel is slightly more popular. Oh well.

For years I've been fascinated by optical illusions, but who knew auditory illusions could be so exciting?

PS  Wow, listened to it again and this time heard Laurel.  What is going on?


Anonymous Lawrence King said...

I have the impression that the recording has the word "Yanny" in a high-pitched voice, and the word "Laurel" in a low-pitched voice. (Since it's computer generated, there aren't actually two voices, but this is the essential effect.)

Some people's hearing is stronger in the low registers, and others in the high, and that's why they hear different words.

I heard "Yanny" first, but once I heard "Laurel" I couldn't go back to "Yanny". So it's different than the kind of optical illusion where you can easily go back and forth at will. And it's also different than the classic color blindness tests, since usually a single individual can't see both numbers in those tests.

2:59 PM, May 17, 2018  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

This neuroscientist uses the term "bi-stable illusion" and gives an interesting explanation, stating what is known and what isn't known. He says he has two pairs of headphones, and one always gives Laurel and the other one Yanny. This video distorts the recording so everyone can hear each word.

The power of suggestion is also a factor. Back in the days of turntables, I played the famous line of "Stairway to Heaven" backward for my mom and asked her what it sounded like. She said it didn't sound like anything. Then I told her that it supposedly said "Here's to my sweet Satan", and then played it again -- and she totally heard it.

I am 99% sure that the "Stairway" phenomenon was an accident, since doing it deliberately would be almost impossible. Robert Plant inserts a gratuitous "N" at the beginning of the line ("N'there's still time to change the road you're on"), and that N is necessary to make the backward line work. So I wondered for a while if it was deliberate. But after listening carefully, I realized that inserting a gratuitious "M" or "N" at the beginning of the line was actually common in the English blues revival (Yardbirds, Cream, Jeff Beck Group, early Zeppelin). I'm guessing this was part of their attempt to imitate African-American blues, which might actually trace back to African languages (where some words start with MB).

3:10 PM, May 17, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I go back and forth, though it's usually Yanny. I don't seem to have any control over which one it will be.

According to what I've seen on the internet, the original source is from a recording an opera singer made of the word "laurel" for

3:20 PM, May 17, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I spent a lot of time listening to Beatles recordings backwards, even though I knew it wasn't serious. (Some did record words backwards for fun, such as ELO.)

I assume the "N" at the beginning of a line means "and," such as the "Yes 'n'" beginning Dylan has in "Blowin' In The Wind."

3:23 PM, May 17, 2018  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I understand different frequencies make a difference, and your ears make a difference. But the point is I listen to the same YouTube video on my same computer, with my same ears, and two different words are heard at different times.

3:25 PM, May 17, 2018  
Blogger New England Guy said...

In Billie Jean by Michael Jackson, I still hear him clearly proclaim that "the chair is not my son"

3:56 AM, May 18, 2018  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

The problem is that there cannot logically be a "and" there:

"Yes there are two paths you can go by, but in the long run [N] there's still time to change the road you're on."

I wish I could remember what blue song I recently heard with the initial gratuitous M or N. Maybe my YouTube history would help.

Dylan's "N", however, is definitely an "and". He wasn't trying to imitate African-American blues. On his first three albums he did often imitate Woody Guthrie. "It ain't no use in turnin' on your light, babe -- that light I never knowed." "I wouldn't worry 'bout it none." This isn't a 1950s Minnesota dialect. It's a 1930s Oklahoma dialect, which Dylan picked up from Woody (who deliberately exaggerated his own accent when he discovered that it caused East Coast folk music fans to swoon over his "authenticity"....)

3:35 PM, May 19, 2018  
Anonymous Lawrence King said...

LAGuy wrote:

But the point is I listen to the same YouTube video on my same computer, with my same ears, and two different words are heard at different times.

The psychologist in the video said that this is called a "bi-stable illusion," and nobody has figured out why it happens.

I'm not a psychologist, but I'll offer a theory: Maybe the part of your brain that processes these things is like a Galton board, and once the pathway to "Laurel" and the pathway to "Yanny" have both been established, the neurons randomly choose a path each time you hear it?

11:30 PM, May 19, 2018  

Post a Comment

<< Home

web page hit counter