CHICAGO (CBS) — In the latest debate to divide the Internet, it’s not a question of what you see, but what you hear: Yanny or Laurel?
An audio sample making the rounds online is proving so perplexing, what people hear sometimes depends on the time of day, or the device they’re listening on.
Twitter user Cloe Feldman shared the audio clip of an Instagram poll asking users whether they hear yanny or laurel. The clip somehow sounds like both words.
Like the debate a few years ago over whether a picture showed a blue and black dress, or a white and gold dress, it all appears to be a matter of who you ask, or in some cases when you ask them.
You might hear yanny when you listen to the clip on your phone, and then hear laurel when you listen on your laptop. Or you might hear one word the first time you listen, and another word a couple hours later listening on the same device.
Of course, for some people, many who hear one word can’t believe anyone would hear something different.
So what do you hear?
As people took to social media to let the world know what they heard — and argue with those who hear differently — scientists were trying to figure out why this debate even exists. How can some people hear “Yanny” and others the completely different-sounding “Laurel”?
Several researchers agreed that the audio recording is just too ambiguous. Theoretically, listeners can hear different sounds depending on whether the low frequencies or high frequencies are amplified, CNET reports.
One Twitter user proved this by adjusting the bass levels of the original recording. As the bass is adjusted, the word seems to shift.
However, this doesn’t explain why someone would hear the lower frequencies and some hear the higher frequencies in the first place. What could alter what you hear are your headphones or audio equipment. Mediocre speakers don’t usually play both quality bass and treble. So if you’re listening on your phone, laptop speakers or through cheap headphones, you might hear something different than with a high-quality sound system, CNET reports.
But what if two people are both listening through the same speaker and hear different things? Well, your ears just might be different.
“If I cut your ears off and put someone else’s on your head, sounds would sound different,” Howard Nusbaum, a psychologist who studies speech science at the University of Chicago, told Gizmodo. He explained that differently shaped ears focus sounds differently. You might actually hear sounds differently than the person next to you.