Are You Immune to ASMR?
Maybe you just haven’t identified your triggers yet
What Is ASMR?
ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, refers to the calming, relaxing sensation that some individuals experience in response to certain audio, visual, or tactile stimuli. Scientific American describes the ASMR experience “as a pleasantly warm and tingling sensation that starts on the scalp and moves down the neck and spine.”
ASMR can be experienced in response to different “triggers,” which can span a wide range of sounds, modalities, and intensities. Whispering, tapping, hand movements, head massages, and turning the pages of a book are a few common ones. Some individuals report having had experienced the sensation whenever the school nurse checked for head lice. For others, the scene from Toy Story in which Woody is being repaired stimulates the sensation.
ASMR is distinct from sexual arousal and can purportedly help individuals relax and drift off to sleep. Some responders report anecdotal improvements in depression, anxiety, PTSD, sleep quality, and insomnia. Many report experiencing ASMR since childhood, and some incorrectly assume that ASMR is either a universal experience or one unique to them.
The acronym first came about when someone by the name of Jennifer Allen coined the neologism in 2010. Since then, ASMR has become sensationally popular with hundreds of YouTube channels dedicated to stimulating the response. The experience is not without its skeptics, however, and the existence of ASMR remains controversial in the scientific community.
What Does the Science Say?
A 2018 two-part study, appropriately titled “More Than a Feeling,” recorded participants’ physiological responses while watching ASMR videos and found a marked difference between those who reported experiencing ASMR and those who did not. The first part of the study consisted of an online experiment in which participants watched a set of three videos and then reported their affective responses.