Laurel or Yanny—Settled by Science

How the McGurk Effect can save your marriage.

Posted May 16, 2018

Here is the original Twitter post that started it all:

Source: cnn

Truth is, it's both Laurel AND Yanny. Yanny is played in a higher frequency and Laurel is played using a lower frequency.

Your brain picks one version and sticks with it, tuning out any evidence to the contrary.

I couldn't BELIEVE that my wife heard "Yanny" when it was obviously "Laurel." So I decided to do a little experiment using something called the McGurk Effect.

All things being equal, the brain will prioritize visual input over audio input. When the two conflict, the brain believes what it is seeing and not what it is hearing.

I couldn't hear "Yanny," until my wife mouthed it for me while we listened to it. I focused on her mouth and had her exaggerate her lip movements to get the maximum effect. The McGurk Effect worked. I heard "Yanny" (but only until she stopped mouthing it.) The argument was settled and our marriage was saved.

The brain despises ambiguity and seeks to decide quickly what "is" and what "isn't". In fact, all of human perception is inferred from incomplete information. Your brain is constantly putting the pieces of the puzzle together (and filling in the blanks on its own when necessary.)

Here's an optical illusion that shows a dancer spinning EITHER in a clockwise direction, OR a counter-clockwise direction. Your brain will decide which one it "is" and which one it "isn't". You'll be able to switch back and forth with a little help from the narrator, but you'll never be able to see both at the same time.

At the end of the day, our greatest asset is our ability to see different perspectives. Unfortunately, seeing things differently also causes our most serious negative conflicts.

So, the next time someone tells you that a dress is blue when it is clearly gold, or that they hear "Yanny" when it is SO clearly "Laurel," give them an honest chance to convince you. After all, can our own five senses really be trusted?

If we stopped trying to prove our points, we might actually be able to improve ourselves. Join me for more human connection discussion and resources at