Is ASMR a sensation of love?

There are many ways to define and describe love.

So I will put forth one possible description just for the sake of this post:

Love is comfort and safety, it is a warm feeling that spreads throughout your body, it is happiness always and euphoria sometimes, it is trust, it is focus, and ultimately it is a state of bliss and relaxation.

That sure sounds a lot like ASMR.

Trying to scientifically define and explain ASMR is a big challenge today.  Trying to scientifically define and explain love has been a big challenge throughout the ages.

But there is at least one dedicated scientist that tried to understand love through experiments, and he was ridiculed for attempting it.

Yet his research findings are considered some of the most important studies ever done, and may help to understand ASMR.

His name was Harry Harlow.

Harlow received his PhD in psychology from Stanford University in 1930 and he was curious about the importance of mother-infant bonding.

In one of set of experiments he gave infant monkeys a choice between:

  • a fake mother made out of wire that offered milk from a bottle and warmth from a light
  • a fake mother made out of wire that did not offer milk or warmth but was covered in a soft terry-cloth towel.

The infant monkeys preferred the soft terry-cloth mother, especially when any type of stress was added to the environment.

These results were interpreted to mean that infants may have a much stronger preference and need for comfort (an aspect of love?) than was previously believed.

Harlow also demonstrated that any infant monkey raised with a fake mother (with or without the terry-cloth) exhibited developmental and behavioral problems compared to infant monkeys raised with a real mother.

These results were interpreted to mean that the real comfort and affection given by parents induces important and healthy biological changes.  And this comfort and affection seems very important at buffering stress by inducing relaxation.

Which molecules may be involved with these healthy biological changes induced by comfort and affection?

Lots of further research done on monkeys, humans, and many other species shows that endorphins, oxytocin, and serotonin all increase during moments of comfort, attachment, and affection.

So it seems humans are hard-wired to be relaxed by specific types of stimuli that communicate safety and comfort, like soft voices, caring gazes, gentle touches, and methodical sounds associated with grooming and safety.

ASMR may therefore be a “pattern recognition” response, specifically felt by some individuals because for some reason they have a heightened sensitivity to these stimuli.

ASMR may not exactly be love, but it sure can feel like it.

Click HERE to read more about the potential biology of ASMR.

Click HERE to read more about the known biology of mother-infant bonding and how it may apply to ASMR in this post by Dr. Dettmer, a scientist who was trained by students of Harry Harlow.

Click HERE to learn more about a well-written and fascinating book about Harry Harlow.

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This post brought to you by ASMR University.  A site with the mission of increasing the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.

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