Wednesday 20 June 2018

'Brainstorm or Green Needle?' is the new, even weirder, 'Laurel or Yanny?'

Brainstorm or Green Needle?
Brainstorm or Green Needle?
Aoife Kelly

Aoife Kelly

If you thought the 'Laurel or Yanny' auditory conundrum was weird, then you'll be completely freaked out by 'brainstorm or green needle'.

While most people who listen to the 'Laurel or Yanny' audio will only hear one of the words, people are hearing both on the 'brainstorm or green needle' test.

Whichever word you think of you will hear, with some people reportedly hearing 'brain needle' or 'green storm'.

The snippet is taken from a review of a Ben 10 toy that was posted on YouTube in 2014 so the word appears to be 'brainstorm' which is the name of a character in the show.

But hey, who knows what's real and what's right anymore?

Regarding the Laurel or Yanny question, the 'right' answer is Laurel since the clip was taken from a recording of the word 'Laurel' from dictionary.com.

However, many academics have been weighing in on why people are hearing different words.

Theories range form the way our hearing changes we age, to people’s brains being primed by seeing the written word first, to accent variation between British and American listeners influencing what they pick up.

Professor Charles Spence, professor of experimental psychology, at Oxford, said he could only hear 'laurel' and it could be because of his age.

He told The Telegraph: "There are some effects where words alternate what you hear when you say them rapidly repeatedly….. but given this is only said time two, that doesn’t seem like it.

"There are plenty of auditory perceptual grouping effects where you get one interpretation or another and it flips back and forth but again that doesn’t quite sounds like it.

"If there was stuff going on at high frequency range maybe you would get young people hearing/and being influenced by that, but not oldies?"

Read more: Watch: Laurel or Yanny? The White House posted a video and you’ll never guess what Donald Trump hears

Jane Setter, a professor of phonetics at the University of Reading, said people may also be hearing different names depending on where they live.

“There may well be differences between British and American listeners,” she told the Telegraph.

“The phenomenon seems to have started off with American listeners’ perceptions of a recording of “Laurel” generated by computer i.e. synthesized.

“Accent differences will predispose the brain to hearing certain patterns so it would be interesting to see if a Brit, Aussie, American pattern emerges – but I’m not sure who’s collecting that data, and it will be difficult to do so now with any research rigour.”

Another factor that could influence what name listeners hear according to Prof. Setter was seeing the written word first in the tweet.

As English speakers read from left to right this could prime the brain to expect to hear “Yanny” for some people.

Alex Holcombe, a cognitive psychologist at the University of Sydney, has also explained that the audio quality of the clip could be an influence as our brains effectively fill in the blanks when presented with low sound quality. 

He said: “Because our brains are almost every day trying to understand what was said under less than ideal (noisy) conditions, it is in the habit of making strong guesses from ambiguous stimuli,” he explained.

“If the auditory signal is somewhere between the prototypical way of saying ‘laurel’ and ‘yanny’, then the brain may tend to force it towards one or the other, as it does with the phonemic restoration effect.”

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