A short audio clip, containing a computerized voice saying a word, has become the latest trend on social media. After it emerged on Reddit three days ago, it quickly went viral on Twitter.

The main debate among listeners of the elusive clip is whether the voice says “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Much like the gold and blue dress argument of 2015, this clip is taking the internet by storm, with social media users furiously trying to prove what they hear is the only correct version of the word.

Professor David Alais from the University of Sydney’s school of psychology weighed in on the big debate, saying that hearing “Yanny” or “Laurel” depends on “perceptually ambiguous stimulus.”

“They can be seen in two ways, and often the mind flips back and forth between the two interpretations. This happens because the brain can’t decide on a definitive interpretation,” Alais said. “If there is little ambiguity, the brain locks on to a single perceptual interpretation.”

“Here, the Yanny/Laurel sound is meant to be ambiguous because each sound has a similar timing and energy content – so in principle, it’s confusable. All of this goes to highlight just how much the brain is an active interpreter of sensory input, and thus that the external world is less objective than we like to believe,” he added, The Guardian reported. 

However, despite the ambiguity surrounding the single word, experts said there are certain factors which led some people to hear “Yanny” and other listeners to be certain that it was “Laurel.” Here they are:

1. Age: According to Alais, age might be one of the determining factors behind people hearing one name over the other. The professor added he always heard “Yanny” and his mind never picked up the word “Laurel” even once. He attributed it partially to being 52 years of age, which meant his ears lack high frequency sensitivity.

Just out of curiosity, we conducted a survey in our workplace, inviting eight people of various age groups to participate and report whether they could hear “Yanny” or “Laurel” when they played the clip. Incidentally, the age-factor did not hold true in the case of the survey, as colleagues who had the same age provided different answers.

2. Accent: The second probable reason pointed out by Alais was the accent in which the computerized voice spoke. The voice spoke in North-American English, which sounds quite different from Australian or British English and hence can affect the way people’s mind grasp the word.

3. Frequency: According to Lars Riecke, an assistant professor of audition and cognitive neuroscience at Maastricht University in the Netherlands, every alphabet is spoken at different frequency, which might be the secret behind half of the people hearing the word differently than the rest.

“Most sounds – including L and Y, which are among the ones at issue here – are made up of several frequencies at once... frequencies of the Y might have been made artificially higher, and the frequencies that make the L sound might have been dropped,” Riecke told The Verge.

4. Familiarity: Since it is ultimately one’s mind that is deciding whether the word it heard was “Yanny” or “Laurel,” it is only fair that the decision will be psychologically motivated, Professor Hugh McDermott from Melbourne’s Bionics Institute claimed.

He said one’s surrounding can have a huge impact on picking one name over the other, as human brain often depends on “cues to help you make the right decision.”

“If you heard a conversation happening around you regarding ‘Laurel’ you wouldn’t have heard ‘Yanny.’ Personal history can also give an unconscious preference for one or another. You could know many people named ‘Laurel’ and none called ‘Yanny,’” he added.

5. Vision: Visual images are always more memorable than sound, so if one’s eyes saw the word “Yanny” first or looked it longer than Laurel, there is a chance that one will lean toward believing that he or she heard that word, not “Laurel,” and vice versa.

“You would have noticed it had both the names appearing on the screen with no other context or information. This forces the brain to make a choice between those two alternatives,” McDermott said.

As mentioned earlier, we conducted a survey with eight people. So here are the results (and we could not have hoped for a better outcome):

Yanny: 4

Laurel: 4

Just like us, Twitter had a blast picking one over the other, insulting those who did not pick what they did and devising conspiracy theories!

One Twitter user even tried to modulate the sound to prove that the word one hears has got nothing to do with the mind but everything to do with the volume it is heard in:

Earphones A short audio clip, containing a computerized voice saying a word, has become the latest trend on social media. In this photo, a man listens to an iPod MP3 player through earphones in Sydney, Australia, Aug. 17, 2005. Photo: Getty Images/ Ian Waldie