It was fun and confusing, but Yanny and Laurel teach us something about perception

It was largely a fun distraction on social media, but there’s a powerful lesson in the debate over the audio clip that sounded to some people like Yanny and to others like Laurel.

It’s a reminder that two people can listen to the same thing but hear something completely different. Too often, we assume that we are seeing or hearing information unfiltered, that our experience is an unvarnished truth. Actually, though, we all have our filters. We don’t just see and hear things. We process and interpret them using a system that is biologically and psychologically unique to us, based on a combination of our distinctive physiology and experience.

So two people can look at the same information and conclude two different things and neither is necessarily wrong. In an increasingly polarized political climate, that’s an important thing to remember. If we are ready to accept that two people can hear something as distinctive as Yanny or Laurel, perhaps we should also acknowledge that different opinions can arise from seeing the same circumstances or facts.

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