ASMR and hypnosis have a lot of similarities.
The process for both can involve eye gazing, soft and almost monotonous vocal tones, methodical sounds, significant trust, and rhythmic movements of hands or objects.
The outcome for both involves being relaxed. ASMR is a lower level state of relaxation and hypnosis is a deeper state of relaxation.
The person inducing the relaxation in both situations is often a real or simulated expert, giving focused one-on-one attention, with a trustworthy disposition and a non-threatening nature.
Overall, it would seem likely that anything known about the biology of hypnosis may be relevant to the biology of ASMR.
So what is known about the biology of hypnosis?
A recently published article highlights one molecule that is probably involved in hypnosis, and it is a molecule that I have also theorized is central to ASMR (see my Origin Theory of ASMR for full details).
The title of the article reveals the molecule, “Hypnosis, attachment, and oxytocin”.
Similar to my theory about ASMR, the authors of this article also believe that bonding behaviors and bonding psychology are probably involved in the process of hypnosis. The authors state, “…the wording of certain types of hypnotic suggestions may be compared to secure mothering behavior.”
The authors highlight the importance of a therapist being “attentive, responsive, sensitive, available, and benevolent”, characteristics also important for your parents, friends, and romantic partners.
Curiously, all these characteristics are usually seen in ASMR video role-plays. One of these characteristics may need explanation for how it relates to ASMR, and another characteristic in that list had never entered my mind about how it could be important to ASMR videos.
The characteristic that may need explanation is “responsive”. A person in a recorded video can not be responsive. Except, artists in many ASMR video role-plays are responsive. The person in the video often asks a question, pauses while they pretend to hear what the viewer is saying, and then pretends to respond to what the viewer might have said.
The characteristic that I had never thought about how it could be important to ASMR videos is “available”. The article highlights how this trait is important in human relationships and also for therapists. What is more “available” than a video that is always accessible on the internet? These videos may represent the parent, friend, loved one, or therapist that is always “available”, always there, always waiting and willing to listen and help. This could be an important aspect of these videos which further stimulate the bonding physiology and hence stimulate ASMR.
Another interesting quote from the article is, “…the most important relationships in life are those that developed in times of need…” This may explain why some individuals experience ASMR to some videos and why some individuals don’t. If you seek out ASMR videos because you need help with sleeping, stress, and or your mood then your brain may be more receptive to the stimuli in the videos. If you seek out ASMR videos because you just heard about them but you are not “in a time of need” then perhaps your brain is less receptive to the stimuli in the videos.
What about the role of oxytocin in hypnosis?
The authors admit that they are not the first individuals to theorize the role of oxytocin in hypnosis and cite published references going back to 1989.
They also mention a research study done in 2012 that showed giving a person oxytocin increased their ability to be hypnotized.
The article explains that depression and anxiety have both been modulated by hypnosis or by giving a person oxytocin. This offers some credence to a person’s natural oxytocin playing a role in hypnosis.
Is oxytocin also likely to be involved in ASMR? There are not any direct studies to support that yet.
But this article does suggest a good study to do: give a person oxytocin and see if that increases their ability to experience ASMR.
Click HERE to read the abstract of the article.
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