How important is the non-verbal aspect of ASMR?

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityThe big similarity between WhisperingLife’s first whisper video channel and the relaxation video channels which preceded her channel is that both channel types relaxed and soothed the viewers.

One of the big differences though is that WhisperingLife did not use her words to relax, she just used her voice.  She did not talk viewers through guided relaxation or meditation scenarios, she just rambled about stuff or read from books – but in a soft, gentle, whispering voice.

And now a research study published in the journal, Biological Psychology, has provided more evidence about how the human brain is more receptive to ‘how’ something is being said rather than to ‘what’ is being said.

Unfortunately the research was not done with ASMR but did assess the verbal and non-verbal cues associated with anger, sadness, and happiness.

Participants in the study had their brainwaves measured via EEG while they listened to clear statements (i.e, verbal, understandable, speech) which were expressing anger, sadness, or happiness.

And the participants also had their brainwaves measured via EEG while they listened to unclear statements (i.e. non-verbal, inaudible, vocalizations) which were also expressing similar levels of anger, sadness, or happiness.

The results showed the participants brains recognized the emotions in the unclear statements (non-verbal, inaudible, vocalizations) faster and/or more significantly than the emotions in the clear statements (verbal, understandable, speech).

This may support that our brains initially evolved to be able to quickly determine whether certain vocalizations or sounds are threatening, with a secondary development of determining if certain words or speech are threatening.

By theory this is not profound.  It is clear that our creation and use of language came after our use of vocalizations and responsiveness to sounds (as observed in most other species) – and therefore our brain pathways which respond to speech developed after our brain pathways that respond to vocalizations and sounds.

But science likes to put evidence on top of theory so these findings are still important.

How might this apply to ASMR?

It confirms what WhisperingLife seems to have concluded when listening to video clips from the TV show Big Brother of house guests whispering about strategy: it is not what you say but how you say it.

Also, a popular type of ASMR trigger is called ‘inaudible’.  It consists of spoken words that are either nonsensical and/or unclear but can cause deep relaxation in some listeners.  This further confirms that our brains care more about how something is being said rather than what is being said.

And lastly, it may help to explain why sounds are so good at triggering ASMR.  Our brains seem to be very quick to determine if a sound is threatening or not.  Crinkling paper, methodical tapping, and other ASMR trigger sounds are all quickly registered in the brain as non-threatening and therefore chemicals are released to induce relaxation.

There are plenty of unanswered questions.  Like why do some people have an angry response to non-threatening sounds or vocalizations?

Hopefully more theorists, scientists, and researchers will expand their work into the field of ASMR to tackle the many questions of this phenomenon.

Click HERE to read a summary of this research.

Click HERE to access the abstract and full paper of this research.

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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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