Screenshot of the "Yanny or Laurel" audio recording
Screenshot of the "Yanny or Laurel" audio recording Reddit

Laurel or Yanny? An audio recording is being hailed as the new “The Dress” online debate as it proceeds to tear the Internet apart.

The recording is believed to have been posted first on Reddit, wherein a Redditor asked what others were hearing in the four-second clip. The man in the recording could be heard saying either Laurel or Yanny. The responses appeared to be divided, with some insisting it was Yanny, while others claiming it was clearly Laurel.

Even celebrities are joining in on the debate.

According to a poll conducted by ABC News on Twitter, 54 percent of respondents heard “Laurel,” while the rest heard “Yanny.” Some responses online claimed that they heard one option at first before they began to hear the other, and once it happened, they couldn’t switch back to hearing the first name anymore.

The science of Laurel and Yanny

The “Laurel/Yanny” debate has a scientific explanation. According to Brad Story, professor of Speech, Language and Hearing at the University of Arizona, the recording could be at fault as it wasn’t of high quality. And because it’s not a clear recording, it allows some ambiguity.

“When I analysed the recording of Laurel, that third resonance is very high for the L. It drops for the R and then it rises again for the L,” he told CNN. “The interesting thing about the word Yanny is that the second frequency that our vocal track produces follows almost the same path, in terms of what it looks like spectrographically, as Laurel.”

The answer

Story again stressed out that it’s a low quality of recording, and so “it’s not surprising some people would confuse the second and third resonances flipped around and hear Yanny instead of Laurel.” But if the pitch of the original recording was changed, both words can be heard.

“Most likely the original recording was ‘Laurel,’” he said, apparently siding with #TeamLaurel instead of #TeamYanny hashtags trending on social media.

The dress

This week’s the great divide is reminiscent of 2015’s viral “The Dress” online phenomenon. The Dress is one of the most polarising topics on the Internet then, with some people claiming that the colours of the bodycon dress on the photo was black and blue, while others insisting that it was white and gold.

The dress was called Lace Bodycon Dress from retailer Roman Originals, which confirmed that it was in black and blue colours.