I discovered a sex difference in Laurel/Yanny perception! Let’s talk about it.
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Hey musical scientists! I decided to try a talking video. This Laurel/Yanny thing is pretty up my alley as a singer and music producer; I’m used to thinking about sound manipulation and harmonics. But the real reason I’m making this video is that I think I can contribute to the scientific conversation about the phenomenon! I discovered by polling my Twitter following that there’s a weak (ϕ = 0.14) but SIGNIFICANTLY (p = 0.0033) correlation between Laurel/Yanny perception and sex, with men skewing 60/40 for Laurel while women go 55/45 for Yanny. Meanwhle, I found NO correlation between age and perception, even though many videos and articles have been proposing one. Here are the links to the original polls.
I think what this shows is that the phenomenon has less to do with which frequencies you can HEAR, and more about perceptual post-processing. I propose that this is a noise-compensation phenomenon: Those who hear Yanny treat the upper harmonics (3-6 kHz) as part of the harmonic character of speech, while people who hear Laurel discard it as noise. Women’s higher natural formants on vowel sounds (even when the fundamental is the same) may result in a higher cut-off threshold for speech frequencies than men, skewing women towards Yanny and men towards Laurel.
Vocabulary.com page: https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/laurel
Frequency filtering video by Dylan Bennett: https://twitter.com/MBoffin/status/996562598815416321
ASAPScience’s video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiXQl7grPQ
New York Times article: https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2018/05/16/upshot/audio-clip-yanny-laurel-debate.html
Voice, Speech, and Gender: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-00764811/document
Audio clips from Freesound.org:
Background music by me: https://soundcloud.com/timblaismusic/sets/n-i-n-t-e-n-d-o-r-revived