Here’s an angle on the Yanny vs Laurel auditory illusion debate you may not have considered: this storm of contention could be created with a technological magic trick: audio injection. Unlikely, but not impossible.
First, background on the illusion:
It’s being described as an optical illusion for your ears. Two words that look so different on paper can sound so alike to some, and are now causing us to rethink what we hear, reports CBS News contributor and Wired editor-in-chief Nicholas Thompson. Everyone is taking sides – . Even the legendary performer who shares one of the names weighed in. In a video posted on Twitter, Greek music star Yanni laughs as he declares, “Yanny!” – pic.twitter.com/kRGBixcBTg — Yanni (@Yanni) May 16, 2018
But slightly more of the public seems to be siding with “Laurel.” Twitter data shows 47 percent of people on that site hear “Yanny,” and 53 percent hear “Laurel.”
It’s perhaps the biggest internet controversy since the great of 2015. So, which one is it? If you said Laurel you’re technically correct. Last Friday, Georgia high school student, Katie Hetzel was studying the word “laurel” for her literature class and decided to look it up on Vocabulary.com. “I thought I was losing it,” Hetzl said. “I clicked the audio button to tell me a word to spell and I hear ‘Yanny’ and I was like, this isn’t one of my vocabulary words.”
The high school freshman posted her findings to Instagram. Soon enough, the internet worked its magic and the debate turned explosive. But why do different people hear different things from the same recording?
“People who are more attuned to the high frequencies are picking up on things that make it sound more like Yanny. If you’re not picking up on those higher frequencies then it sounds more like Laurel,” explained linguist Ben Zimmer.
Vocabulary.com, where the debate originated, has now gotten in on the action, creating a definition for all the people on team Yanny: A yanny is a word or phrase that is capable of distracting the entire internet for at least 24 hours. When you “drop a yanny,” you start a contentious debate on some type of public forum.
The original audio comes from a computer voice speaking the word Laurel, so if that’s what you hear, then there’s that. Some people, however, hear Yanny very clearly over and over.
The Yanny Conspiracy Theory: What if it just seems to be the same word in a loop but someone is actually injecting different audio into different feeds? Some hackers could do this by replacing the 4 second file on the audio server mid-stream, a man-in-the-middle attack. If that were going on, however, everyone in one place would hear the same word, and they don’t, pretty sure… Have you had someone in the same room hear Yanny when you are hearing Laurel? If so, let us know in a comment.
I once experienced an audio illusion: We had a class once where the professor played a tape for 5 minutes and we had to write down every word we heard. At the end we shared and people heard things like “cut the tape,” “contemplate” and so on, but the only word playing was “cogitate” played in a loop, exactly the same every time.
This happens because the brain is a difference engine. If things are too much the same, it will invent and experience difference. See the ganzfeld effect. If you tape two halved ping pong balls over your eyes while sitting under a lamp, the white visual field will have you seeing hallucinations. Once the brain recognizes that there is no useful information to be deciphered from the incoming visual field, it just ignores it.
I’ve used the ping-pong balls and they worked. You should not paint them, use the white ones, you cut them in the half and attach them to something that would resemble swimming goggles. I made it with toilet paper wrapped around normal paper so it wouldn’t hurt the face, then I used rubber bands to pull it tight around the eyes. Do no let any light get in through holes or anything. I used hot glue to attach the half balls to the papper thing. Then you lie or sit with a lamp in front of your face, the white background should have you seeing strange things in a few minutes.
Here are more audio illusions for when you get bored with Laurel and Yanny. “Be You, Pail, Bill, Mayo…”
All of this shows us an important strange truth, that we are only partly interacting with our environment, while also partly reacting to things that are only in our imagination, even when we are wide awake! Some people find it amazing that dolphins are always half asleep. The question is, do any of them know it? Most of us don’t. 😉