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Is it Laurel or Yanny and why should I care?

May 17, 2018

In today's episode of "Things the internet is going crazy about" we find this interesting discussion of whether a certain sound clip is saying the word 'Laurel' or 'Yanny'. Take a listen and see what you think:

 

 

 

Not to take sides here or anything but in the interest of the facts behind this, you should know that the actual recording is from a dictionary.com reading of the word Laurel. So there's that.

 

What's going on behind the scenes is actually very interesting. You see, our brains are doing an amazing amount of work behind the scenes that you don't know or recognize. We're all familiar with the fact that we don't have to think about breathing to continue doing it 24/7. What we're not all familiar with though is our brains are working as detectives 24/7 as well. 

 

Our brains take in an enormous amount of information. We can't possibly process all the stimuli that our brains receive. Here's where our brains turn to something known as Sensory Gating.  Sensory Gating is the process by which the brain tries to help you filter out unimportant information and focus on what is really important. This is largely an automatic response meaning your brain does this for you without your having to intentionally order it to do so.

 

How does this come into play here? It turns out that the clip above is a recording of a recording and this produces degradation from the original clip meaning important audio signals get dropped when the copy is made. Your brain hears this incomplete information and tries to help you piece together the missing bits to make sense of what it's receiving. It filters out then what it has learned to be unimportant and produces an understanding for you that makes sense given the information it's receiving combined with what it has experienced in the past.

 

Here's a real time example to prove my point. Listen to this example to see how our brains make sense of the world around us.

Do you see what happened there? Your brain couldn't make sense of the first clip the first time it heard it. After hearing the unfiltered version though, your brain can't "un-hear" it again so when you go back to the first clip with more information, it's now clear what is being said!

 

As a trainer, I believe this is hugely important for several reasons:

 

First, our brains are fighting to make sense of the world for us and when it is not given enough information, it will stitch together something that makes sense anyway. As a trainer, it's my job to provide enough information that our brains make the correct assumptions. Leaving holes could result in bad things happening.

 

Second, the way we perceive the world is not the same for every human being. My ears might hear at different frequencies than yours and so I might hear "Yanny" and you might hear "Laurel". Trainers need to keep this in mind then that their students will perceive their material in different ways. It's a mistake then to present everything the same way to your classes. Offering them different ways to experience the same learning objectives and they will remember it more.

 

Lastly, our brains will filter out what is perceived as unimportant automatically. As a trainer, I have to be aware of this and know that if I don't approach my training with intentionality, my students will begin to filter out what I'm teaching them. This is why we need to create spaces during our training for the students to discover answers on their own, for them to teach each other on the topic, and that they can experience the material audibly, visually, emotionally, and reasonably. Engaging different centers in their minds will create more pathways to remembering the material.

 

All this and more I discuss in my class "Training from the BACK of the room" with material by Sharon Bowman.  If this topic interests you, come to one of my classes and you'll learn how to apply these things to your own training materials.

 

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