Patterico's Pontifications


READER POLL: Is the Way You Hear Yanny/Laurel Correlated to How You See the Dress?

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:39 am

Just so everything is in one place, let’s review. Here’s the audio. Do you hear “Yanny” or “Laurel”?

Here’s the dress. Is it gold and white, or blue and black?

Screen Shot 2015-02-26 at 9.12.24 PM

Now here’s the poll. Does what you hear correlate with what you see? Let’s find out!

What do you hear and what do you see?
I hear “Yanny.” The dress is gold and white.
I hear “Yanny.” The dress is blue and black.
I hear “Laurel.” The dress is gold and white.
I hear “Laurel.” The dress is blue and black.
Created with Free Survey Maker

Some more links and discussion that might interest you about the “Yanny/Laurel” thing. The New York Times has a very fun tool that plays with the frequency with a slider. Move it to the left, and the frequency range associated with the “Laurel” sound comes to prominence. Move it to the right, and it sounds more like “Yanny.” This might help a lot of people hear what other folks are hearing.

You should get to the point where you can hear one or the other. My wife and daughter can switch back and forth between the two. I hear both at once, the way you can hear two notes in harmony at the same time.

Once you get to where you can hear one or the other, play with that slider. Move it far to one side and then gradually move it back toward the center. Find what they call “your Laurel/Yanny critical point” on the slider, where it changes from one to the other, or where you (if you can hear both, like me) you can first begin to detect one voice gaining prominence. This point changes for me, which is interesting.

Although it is possible to play with the frequency, get it out of your head that the difference between people who hear “Yanny” and those who hear “Laurel” all rests in the frequency at which the sound is broadcast, or the device on which it is played. My wife and I heard opposite things yesterday morning, listening to the same computer. I played it on my phone for two people and one heard “Laurel” and the other heard “Yanny” at the same time from the same device. If you are hearing “Laurel,” it’s not because you can’t hear high frequencies. This is not a dog whistle. “Yanny” can be heard at a conversational frequency that anybody with normal hearing can hear.

What is happening here is not a result of your hearing, but a result of your mind, and the way it interprets things. A lot of what is going on here is expectation. Your mind finds a way to interpret the sound, fixates on that way of interpreting it, and expects to hear the same sound the same way again. As an example of the way that expectation shapes what you hear, the Popular Science article I linked yesterday has a fun experiment that you should try if you haven’t already. Listen to this few seconds of staticky noise:

Now listen to this, which is nothing more than a cleaned-up version of the same audio:

Now listen to the staticky version again. (You may have to refresh the page to get it to come up again.) All of a sudden the words are clear, aren’t they?

As someone who has begun to meditate and explore the ways you can train your mind (thanks Sam Harris!), I believe that you could train your mind to hear “Laurel” and “Yanny” at will — and perhaps (like me) to hear both at once. We have more of a vocabulary for expressing the notion of listening to lower or higher frequencies. I think that if our society were more interested in training the mind to evaluate how it perceives things, we could develop skills and a common vocabulary for how to train the mind to switch between different ways of seeing things as well. Optical illusions would be less puzzling, and we could flip how we see the dress at will. Here’s some training you can do on your own. Most of you remember the classic “old woman/young woman” visual. Which do you see?

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 7.19.28 AM

Now watch this video and train yourself to see both easily:

Mind training should be taught in elementary schools, but right now there is little interest and a lack of a common set of terms to describe the phenomena. I’m very interested in it, though, and any reader who has links to more interesting resources is encouraged to post them.

More about where this came from here. Make sure to answer the poll question before clicking the link, so the data are not skewed.

[Cross-posted at The Jury Talks Back.]

32 Responses to “READER POLL: Is the Way You Hear Yanny/Laurel Correlated to How You See the Dress?”

  1. yes yes

    President Trump for example can do MAGA just with his mind to where it’s measurable on America

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  2. i see the dress as blue and gold btw so there may be some noise in your data Mr. patterico

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  3. That’s a gold and white answer. The white is a very light blue, right?

    For black and blue people, that very light blue is a super dark blue.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  4. yes yes i checked gold and white and yanny

    happyfeet (28a91b)

  5. Gold & White (very light blue, I painted the house that shade of blue, it’s called Hope Floats.

    Also, I hear Vanny and see an old woman. Although, with help from the video I can now see the young girl too.

    ropelight (459b44)

  6. After we reform the teaching of high school civics, we can worry about teaching this.

    Beldar (fa637a)

  7. Umm. Since you were asking for more perception links, check out this video. It is not purely about these mind puzzles but about broader issue of bias and possible ways of checking for and limiting it. The fun exercises are at 14:00 and 17:00. But I think better to think about general issues of bias and feedback for bias. (Put up with the fork clinking at beginning…it gets better.)

    P.s. One thing of note is that the speaker was actually M King Hubbert’s supervisor at USGS. (not discussed in video.)

    Anonymous (d41cee)

  8. I can always see both pictures right away and my eyes switch back and forth between the 2.

    As for the rest, it’s Laurel and the dress is gold and white.

    NJRob (b00189)

  9. There was a fair amount of academic research into the “dress phenomenon”.

    Pascal Wallisch, a professor from NYU, did extensive surveys and found that assumptions about lighting accounted for a lot of the difference in peoples’ perceptions.

    There is a summary of his research here:

    and a long, but fascinating (to me anyway) academic article with lots of data published in the Journal of Vision here:

    I don’t want to include too many links and end up in moderation, but this article at Slate (also by Pascal Wallisch) has links to a number of “dress-like” images, and also features a freaky gif that you can “hear” and or “see”:

    Dave (445e97)

  10. (I meant hear and/or *feel*)

    Dave (445e97)

  11. ‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.
    ‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’
    ‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

    Kevin M (752a26)

  12. oops. Speaking of mind-training:

    ‘You are a slow learner, Winston,’ said O’Brien gently.
    ‘How can I help it?’ he blubbered. ‘How can I help seeing what is in front of my eyes? Two and two are four.’
    ‘Sometimes, Winston. Sometimes they are five. Sometimes they are three. Sometimes they are all of them at once. You must try harder. It is not easy to become sane.’

    Kevin M (752a26)

  13. Another Journal of Vision article by different authors reached the same conclusions about lighting assumptions and “the dress”:

    If the researchers are right, it’s hard to imagine how perceptions of the dress and the recording could be directly correlated, but the larger point seems to be that our brains “fill in the blanks” differently in many situations where the raw sensory inputs have ambiguity.

    Dave (445e97)

  14. Almost no one can go back and forth on the dress. It’s ingrained in some way. But, depending on what I heard last, I can hear either Laurel or Yanny in the original version. It’s an audio illusion, like the rabbit-duck*, where a shift in perception is easily done.

    I doubt there will be any correlation with the dress.

    *Not to be confused with the duck-rabbit-duck

    Kevin M (752a26)

  15. I knew an elderly optometrist in California who insisted that he could tell what diseases his patients had, or were about to have, from the errors they made perceiving different colors.

    ropelight (cd0b9f)

  16. I was borderline color blind when tested in the nav entrance exam (which would have stopped me from a combatant career). I had to squint real hard at those little pictures with the circles. And missed a few. But was able to do enough to get it passed.

    At sea, I never had a problem with the red and green (and you have to be far at sea, with an overcast, to understand what deep, deep black is and how strange it can be to see those small lights on the horizon in a disc. Always worried that maybe I was kidding myself and the issues with the test would return. But I was able to tell aspect of contacts.

    Anonymous (d41cee)

  17. I hear both “yanny” and “laurel” spoken simultaneously. “Yanny” is spoken at a higher pitch and “laurel” at a low pitch.

    The dress appears to be light blue and gold. Depending on the contrast setting of the screen on which the image is viewed, and the viewing angle, I can see any of black/blue, blue/gold, white/gold and shift between them at will.

    db (9478ce)

  18. Squinting helps mitigate color-blindness?

    I have no personal experience with it, but I always assumed it was either/or.

    Dave (445e97)

  19. Because of what I mentioned above I cannot answer the poll question truthfull because none of the options describe what I see/hear. Before you ask, there is not one that jumps out “first” to me.

    db (9478ce)

  20. Dave:

    My experience was that there were several people (out of a very large sample) who were borderline and got asked back for more testing among the vast majority who passed, and the few who failed. The first test you do is to look at bubbles and see the numbers. I could get some easily, but other harder. In some cases, I could sort of see the number but not exactly (and guessed a number that was wrong). In that case, squinting (or maybe just looking very hard) as well as trying to consciously problem solve for a pattern helped me.

    See this page (read down) for examples of the bubble tests:

    I never had any problems underway though (including lots of midwatch OOD). So it worked out.

    Anonymous (d41cee)

  21. aaron schlossberg hears spanish! so get out

    rondah 13 (b7332a)

  22. Do you want someone who already answered the poll question to answer it here again?

    Sammy Finkelman (02a146)


    Btw – this is the only time I heard ‘yanni’.

    harkin (99ba6b)

  24. All I heard is “yanny”, I can’t hear the “l” in “laurel” at all.

    company search (9968b4)


    Mock (fc6d93)

  26. Is it me or is Schlossberg going to end up being the Jewish Jackie Robinson with a prominent white supremacy organization? He does favor a lot of black and red in the wardrobe and accessories. Remember, not until 1974 with David Duke’s blessing were white catholics welcome un theKlan (a sop to his Cajun neighbors and to take adantage of northern school desegregation battles).

    urbanleftbehind (00786c)

  27. I see the dress as gold & blue, not one of your options. I hear “Yanney” when listening to it on my computer. Yesterday on my car speakers I heard “Laurel”.

    Matt Harris (06df0a)

  28. Matt,

    Put gold and white then. We see the “white” as a mixture of very light blue and white.

    Patterico (115b1f)

  29. I initially heard “Yanny” but as it looped I started to hear “yannaurel.” After I started hearing that, I tried to hear “just yanny” or “just laurel” but never could. It was always yannaurel after that for me.

    The dress was always blue/black to my sight.

    pkudude99 (b83b20)

  30. All I hear is Laurel. How anyone can hear that as Yanny is…. beyond me. And I’ve tried to hear it as Yanny.

    lee (b56b65)

  31. I think it’s also that different people’s ears hear a little differently. This is before the mind even comes into it. The ears simply work a little differently just as two people’s voices don’t sound exactly the same because of differences in the vocal/throat structure. The difference may not be as great, but it’s logical that it would still be there since we aren’t stamped from a factory template.

    dlm (a4eb00)

  32. Finally, a Calvinist perspective on the Laurel-Yanny debate:

    After the internet became deeply divided over an audio clip that sounds as though it says either “Yanny” or “Laurel” depending on the listener, one Calvinist commentator came forward to declare that only the elect can hear “Yanny” in the clip, and that those who can only hear “Laurel” are vessels of wrath, set aside for destruction.

    Paul Montagu (e6130e)

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