The 'Laurel' or 'Yanny' debate is actually more insightful than you think.

Do you hear "Laurel" or "Yanny"?

That's not a question any of us would have imagined having to answer before. Thanks to a viral tweet, though, a computerized voice that's uttering one name or another is dividing the internet in a way we haven't seen since "The Dress."

Have you tried it yet? Here you go! (This might just rip your entire life apart.) (Sorry.)


What did you hear? If you're like me, you heard "Yanny" all the way.

If you're like my husband and the other half of the internet (including Twitter icon Chrissy Teigen), then you heard "Laurel," and you're not going to let anyone tell you any different.

So what’s really going on here?

No one truly knows. It seems that no one really knows where this audio clip even came from. Could it be aliens communicating from the depth of space? Could it be Russian bots? I can't answer that. But I can provide a few theories that might help explain why people are hearing things differently.

According to The New York Times, which enlisted the help of several experts, it could have a lot to do with which part of the "frequency range" people give attention to. So if someone tends to hear in the higher range of things, then they're going to hear "Yanny" rather than "Laurel."

Check out what happens when you manipulate the bass. Can you hear both words? (Or is this just fueling outrage?)

And that's before you even get into the linguistic explanations or the fact that everyone's brain processes things differently.

We think we all hear the same things, but as University of Chicago psychologist Howard Nusbaum told Gizmodo, "If I cut your ears off and put someone else's on your head, sounds would sound different." (Of course, this is not an invitation to do such an experiment. I will be very mad if my name comes up in legal proceedings.)

What people hear could also have a lot to do with how they perceive the world.

Here's the thing about brains: They're really good at making snap judgments. That's because brains like to organize and categorize. A study of how people perceived "The Dress" (a study on this! what a time to be alive!) found that even when outside factors were manipulated, once people saw the dress as either blue/black or white/gold, that's the only way they would see it — even when the image was placed in different settings.

One thing's for certain: Regardless of what people hear, both "Yanny" and "Laurel" appear to be on the recording. And if someone distinctly hears just one from the start, a sound and audio engineer told Gizmodo, it's possible they'll stick with that word to the exclusion of the other.

What does that mean?

When someone hears something differently from you, do you wonder why they're hearing what you're not or do you immediately assume they're wrong? It's likely the latter. That's because people make such judgments every day. And why shouldn't we? In the best cases — for instance, when someone decides whether it's safe to jay-walk — those judgments keep people safe.

But we often don't go back and correct snap judgments. And because we focus on information that confirms the beliefs we already hold (that's backed up by research too), we never actually have to. That leads to problems like not expanding our worldviews or allowing ourselves to take in new information. In fact, research has found that once we form opinions, it's incredibly difficult for us to change them — even (and especially) after real facts have been presented.

So before you send your friends a text asking which word they hear (and you absolutely must because why should my marriage be the only one to be torn apart?), consider that they're not wrong either way. And, as Gizmodo points out, "If you listen enough, you might begin to hear things the other way too."

Courtesy of FIELDTRIP
True

The COVID-19 pandemic has disproportionately affected diverse communities due largely in part to social factors such as inadequate access to housing, income, dietary options, education and employment — all of which have been shown to affect people's physical health.

Recognizing that inequity, Harlem-based chef JJ Johnson sought out to help his community maximize its health during the pandemic — one grain at a time.

Johnson manages FIELDTRIP, a health-focused restaurant that strives to bring people together through the celebration of rice, a grain found in cuisines of countless cultures.

"It was very important for me to show the world that places like Harlem want access to more health-conscious foods," Johnson said. "The people who live in Harlem should have the option to eat fresh, locally farmed and delicious food that other communities have access to."

Lack of education and access to those healthy food options is a primary driver of why 31% of adults in Harlem are struggling with obesity — the highest rate of any neighborhood in New York City and 7% higher than the average adult obesity rate across the five boroughs.

Obesity increases risk for heart disease or diabetes, which in turn leaves Harlem's residents — who are 76% Black or LatinX — at heightened risk for complications with COVID-19.

Keep Reading Show less

Eight months into the pandemic, you'd think people would have the basics figured out. Sure, there was some confusion in the beginning as to whether or not masks were going to help, but that was months ago (which might as well be years in pandemic time). Plenty of studies have shown that face masks are an effective way to limit the spread of the virus and public health officials say universal masking is one of the keys to being able to safely resume some normal activities.

Normal activities include things like getting a coffee at Starbucks, but a viral video of a barista's encounter with an anti-masker shows why the U.S. will likely be living in the worst of both worlds—massive spread and economic woe—for the foreseeable future.

Alex Beckom works at a Starbucks in Santee, California and shared a video taken after a woman pulled down her "Trump 2020" mask to ask the 19-year-old barista a question, pulled it back up when the barista asked her to, then pulled it down again.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Pete Buttigieg is having a moment. The former mayor of South Bend, Indiana keeps trending on social media for his incredibly eloquent explanations of issues—so much so that L.A. Times columnist Mary McNamara has dubbed him "Slayer Pete," who excels in "the five-minute, remote-feed evisceration." From his old-but-newly-viral explanation of late-term abortion to his calm calling out of Mike Pence's hypocrisy, Buttigieg is making a name for himself as Biden's "secret weapon" and "rhetorical assassin."

And now he's done it again, this time taking on the 'originalist' view of the Constitution.

Constitutional originalists contend that the original meaning of the words the drafters of the Constitution used and their intention at the time they wrote it are what should guide interpretation of the law. On the flip side are people who see the Constitution as a living document, meant to adapt to the times. These are certainly not the only two interpretive options and there is much debate to be had as to the merits of various approaches, but since SCOTUS nominee Amy Coney Barrett is an originalist, that view is currently part of the public discourse.

Buttigieg explained the problem with originalism in a segment on MSNBC, speaking from what McNamara jokingly called his "irritatingly immaculate kitchen." And in his usual fashion, he totally nails it. After explaining that he sees "a pathway to judicial activism cloaked in judicial humility" in Coney Barrett's descriptions of herself, he followed up with:

Keep Reading Show less

When you picture a ballerina, you may not picture someone who looks like Lizzy Howell. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't.

Howell is busting stereotypes and challenging people's ideas of what a dancer should look like just by being herself and doing her thing in her own body. The now-19-year-old from Delaware has been dancing since she was five and has performed in venues around the world, including Eurovision 2019. She has won scholarships and trains up to four hours a day to perfect her skills in various styles of dance.

Jordan Matter Photography shared a documentary video about Howell on Facebook—part of his "Unstoppable" series—that has inspired thousands. In it, we get to see Howell's impressive moves and clear love of the art form. Howell shares parts of her life story, including the loss of her mother in a car accident when she was little and how she was raised by a supportive aunt who helped her pursue her dance ambitions. She also explained how she's had to deal with hate comments and bullying from people who judge her based on her appearance.

"I don't think it's right for people to judge off of one thing," Howell says in the video. And she's right—her size is just one thing.

Keep Reading Show less