Graduate student writes a theory paper about the ASMR community

Shawn Watkins is a graduate student in the Communication department at Angelo State University located in Angelo, Texas.

He is interested in the cultural phenomenon of ASMR, including common themes and word meanings that have developed within the ASMR community. Shawn did a literature search on this topic and wrote up a paper about his perspectives and findings for one of his communication classes.

His paper investigates the ASMR community through the lens of Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory.

He has agreed to share his paper and annotated bibliography to help others whom are researching ASMR or are trying to understand ASMR better. A link to his paper is included at the end of this post.

Shawn also agreed to answer some questions about his paper. He shares his inspiration for the paper, his favorite ASMR artist, his objectives for the paper, the most surprising thing he learned about ASMR, and more.

Below are my questions in bold and his replies in italics.

How did you become inspired to write a paper about ASMR?

Shawn, “I fell into ASMR through the reddit community. Personally, I’ve tried many things to help with anxiety and whatever brooding existential angst might come over me. I’ve tried solo meditation many times and in many different ways. I try to avoid medication as much as possible. I may just crave some kind of human connection.

ASMR is a little different, as a parasocial relationship, I am receiving a kind of therapy and care that I do not get from a physical interaction. I’m not required to respond in any way, although I’m sure much of the community responds by making their own videos.”

Do you have a favorite ASMR artist?

Shawn, “My favorite “ASMRer” is Dmitri, a YouTube artist in Australia known as ‘MassageASMR’.”

You can view his videos at

What was the main objective of your paper?

Shawn, “The main objective for my paper was to gather quantitative information on the use of rhetorical terminology within the community.

My initial thought was that the community has developed into it’s own, aside from other relaxation methods, through positive responses but also through the reification of itself through terminology and common themes.

On the ASMR subreddit ( you can type in keywords to filter videos based on your own “triggers.” If ASMR is a genre then popular sub-genres focused on respective triggers have possibly developed also (crinkling, tapping, whispering, role play, accents).

I began my paper by first investigation and applying Ernest Bormann’s Symbolic Convergence Theory.”

What challenges did you have with writing the paper?

Shawn, “The challenges I’ve had with the paper were trying to explain it to my colleagues in a quantifiable way. I’m definitely a more qualitative, communal ethnography type of person.”

What was the most surprising thing you learned about ASMR?

Shawn, “The most surprising thing about ASMR to me was the rapid growth in popularity. Some of these videos have half a million views.

It’s been difficult also to find quantitative analysis of the community and on ASMR itself.”

What is the biggest unanswered question about ASMR for you?

Shawn, “The biggest unanswered question for me would be a neurological or psychological basis for the effect of ASMR. How does it cause the deep relaxation and parasocial connection that I can say, only from experience, that I feel? Is there a cultural reason for inclining to different “triggers” or ASMR sub-genres?”

What advice would you give to other students or researchers writing a paper about ASMR?

Shawn, “For students or researchers studying ASMR, I would definitely be reflexive about ones’ own biases and cultural traditions. I assume this of myself in my research and it helps to not be presumptive or hold pretense during a study.

I also try to produce research that will come back and or involve the community. People will think ASMR is weird but maybe I think that driving a car around to get to work is weird (the bias of cultural tradition).

Diving into a community will affect the researcher and the community itself, I think. Being humble can be helpful, at least for me.”

Click HERE to access and read Shawn’s paper, references, and annotated bibliography.

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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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