Explained! Why We Can’t Agree on the Viral ‘Yanny’ or ‘Laurel’ Sound

Not since The Dress has the Internet ripped itself in half over a sensory puzzle like this. In case you haven’t been online in the last 24 hours, that puzzle is a two-syllable sound clip that appeared on Reddit and has since gone viral.

 When you hit the Play button, a computer-generated voice says the word, looping it over and over. The word is “Laurel.”Or maybe “Yanny” (pronounced “yeah-knee”).

 Dr. Bradford May, an auditory scientist at Johns Hopkins University, puts it like this: “Computer synthesis programs can produce unnatural sounds that fall on the boundaries between the two sounds. You will never confuse “yanny” and “laurel” when spoken by actual talkers. 

In other words, if the yanny/laurel puzzle weren’t computer-generated, it couldn’t exist. The sound we’re hearing is a combo that merges the two words; we hear different things because our hearing is different, and because our brains categorize differently. Bottom line: It doesn’t matter if you hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”; the good news is that you’re right.