Laurel v Yanny: what do you hear?
Posted on 26th May 2018 at 19:13
I have listened to the Laurel v Yanny clip approximately 4398794504 times over the last couple of weeks. If you haven’t listened to it yet, here it is:
To my ears, it is very clearly Laurel. I’ve read lots and lots of comments about the clip on the internet and, as always, people are very strongly stating their views: “How can anyone hear Yanny? It’s Laurel!” or “If you hear Laurel, clean your ears out”. But really, it’s both. Dylan Bennett wrote on Twitter “If you can hear high freqs, you probably hear "Yanny", but you *might* hear "Laurel". If you can't hear high freqs, you probably hear Laurel.”
I don’t know how any of that sort of thing works, but even in this clip that Dylan made, which separates the high and low frequencies, I still can’t hear Yanny.
The Award in Education and Training group that I am currently teaching have recently completed their work on learning styles where we look at all of the different ways that teachers teach and learners learn and I think that the whole Laurel / Yanny craze is highly relevant.
Sometimes when we teach, we explain something to our students and think that it’s completely clear, then wonder why we receive assignments that don’t match what we asked for. We’ve heard what we said, but maybe our learners can’t hear the frequency that we’ve used to explain. Apparently, if you listen to the Laurel/Yanny clip on a different medium, like a laptop or someone else’s phone, you can sometimes hear a different word to the one you first heard. When our learners check their notes when they get home, maybe they receive a different message to the one we gave in the classroom. Priming was also a factor in people stating whether they heard Laurel or Yanny. I played the clip to my friend, who hadn’t seen any of the posts about it online and asked her if she could hear Laurel or Yanny. During our talking about it, her husband walked in and I played him the clip without asking which of the two words he could hear. He heard something completely different: something of a mash-up of the two words, but in a higher pitch (so he probably would have said he heard Yanny if he’d been given the two words to choose from). Again, this reflects the classroom, or wherever we teach, because when discussing a topic, things can go wildly off-piste if we don’t give students parameters. In the Award in Education and Training we look at reflective journals and use real examples to see what styles students want to use when writing their own. The first time we tried this, several years ago, it turned into a debate about the course of action the person who wrote the journal took in her practice rather than the style of the journal! Cue a very long session… but lesson learnt (for me).
Like many teachers, I started teaching before I gained a teaching qualification. I love read/write learning, so, in my inexperienced state, I wrote countless courses in workbook format, convinced it was the most effective way to learn: if a student needed to re-cap something, they could easily just read it again in the workbook, couldn’t they? Well no. Not really. Not if that isn’t the way they take in information… or if they can’t hear that frequency.
We can’t, of course, always give information in the exact way that every student in our group wants to receive it, particularly if we have a large group or if we are delivering a very prescriptive programme of learning that must be taught in a specific way. We can, however, try to include as many different styles - or frequencies - as we can in anything we deliver. The Learning Pyramid – despite being sketchy in parts (why is most of it in multiples of 10?) - shows various retention rates when different methods of learning are used. It shows that when we teach something ourselves, we retain 90% of the information. If this is true, which it may well be because you do have to know something fairly well to teach it effectively, then asking another student who is getting on well with a topic to work with a student who isn’t getting on as well can be highly effective. It could be that the student you’ve asked to assist speaks in the frequency that the student being assisted hears.
I’ve read other blogs on this topic this week and have LOL’d at their humorous takes on the Laurel v Yanny debate and how it can be used to understand when you ask students to read something for homework they hear “play Fortnite” instead. But there is something in it… getting a message across in a pitch that everyone hears. In Dylan’s clip, he removes the higher frequencies, then the lower ones so that we can hear both words (I can’t, but that’s what you’re supposed to hear!). As teachers, this is what we do every day and if we don’t we’re only reaching around half of our students. In a Twitter poll, 47% of people heard Yanny, while 53% heard Laurel, which is of course pretty close.
So, what was the robotic voice saying in the first place? It was Laurel, but with higher frequencies overlaid to create ambiguity. It doesn’t mean those who heard Yanny were wrong: apparently younger ears are more likely to hear Yanny! Which is distressing news for this 35-year-old Laurel-hearer…
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