Students Weigh In: Yanny or Laurel?

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Yanny or Laurel? Blue and black or white and gold? While we may have left “the dress” debate back in 2015, a couple of days ago, another mystery hit our headphones. What is being said in the now famous recording? When listening, we wondered if there was any correlation between the way your brain perceives the color of the dress and the sound in the recording. We polled over 75 Western students, and here are the results.

Students were polled with two separate questions: first, what do you hear in the recording? Second, what color is the dress? While most students heard Yanny, there was no shortage of Laurels, and even a few who heard Gary. With regards to the dress, most of the students who were polled saw black and gold. And now, for the big reveal… Was there any correlation between the two results? Unfortunately, no.

Psychology teacher Ms. Hoza shed some insight on the situation. She explained to us that there is scientific reasoning for what people hear, mainly depending on their age. People who hear Laurel are picking up lower frequencies then people who hear Yanny, and generally as people age, they lose their ability to pick up higher frequencies. Since we only polled students, this definitely explains why less of them heard Laurel than Yanny.

In 2015, when the picture of the dress went viral, people were interested in seeing what color the real dress was. Although many people still see white and gold, the actual dress was black and blue. Now, three years later, people want to know whether the original recording says Laurel or Yanny. Britt Yazel, a neuroscience doctoral student at the University of California, Davis, analyzed the audio recording extensively. He edited out all of the frequencies in the recording that are over 4.5 kilohertz, which are the ones that make you hear Yanny. Speaking on his results, he said that the editing,  “takes away the entire perception of hearing the word ‘yanny’ and all you get is the word ‘laurel.’”

So again, the debate is resolved. But is it really? Although the dress is black and blue and the recording says Laurel, our results show that Western students heard Yanny more than they heard Laurel. However, most viewed the dress as black and blue, as it really is. The one takeaway from this experience that we had is that while there is no correlation between how your brain perceives sight and sound in this particular situation, everyone’s mind picks up different wavelengths and frequencies.



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