Dutch biology student and ASMR artist shares her views on the evolutionary origin of ASMR

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityJolien Morren has her Bachelor’s degree in Marine biology and Ecology & Evolution and is currently pursuing her Master’s Degree in Biology and Science Communication and Society at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

Jolien also creates ASMR videos for her YouTube channel, RelaxingSounds92, and for her blog, Sepiola.

I was very interested in talking with Jolien about ASMR after reading the subtitle of her blog, “Biologist and science communicator in the making, ASMR YouTuber, blogger”.

I knew she would have some valuable biological, evolutionary, and other related thoughts about ASMR.

In my interview with Jolien she shares her journey to becoming an ASMR artist, her thoughts about how and why ASMR may have evolved, how ASMR may be helpful to others, and why she thinks more ASMR research is important.

Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics and links to her video channel and blog.

How did you first become interested in ASMR?

Jolien, “ASMR is something I have always experienced and never really thought about until I came across it on the internet. I used to love playing the “draw words on each others’ backs” game, I think feeling the tingles was a big part of that, even if I don’t remember feeling it at those times.

Another thing I enjoyed very much when I was little was just lying in my father’s lap while he stroked my hair. I can imagine feeling ASMR then as well. My first real memories of ASMR are at the hairdresser and sometimes randomly during lessons at school or lectures at university.

Then around 2011 I got into beauty blogs, and one blogger shared a video of VisualSounds1, explaining that it gave it her this super relaxed feeling. I found out in the comments then that that feeling I never really thought about was dubbed ASMR online and I started watching a lot of videos.”

What inspired you to create ASMR videos for your YouTube channel?

Jolien, “During Christmas time in 2011 at my parents I was doing a puzzle with my mum, and I went over it with my nails, thinking it sounded nice. When they were out doing groceries or something, I decided to give it a try. I put on some nice nail polish and filmed my first video.

I thought I had nice looking hands and nails, and that that would be a plus while doing nail tapping, so that’s what I did most in the beginning. I got positive feedback, and to be honest, that’s kind of addictive. So I just kept on going from there :)”

How would you describe the content and style of your ASMR videos?

Jolien, “I do lots of sounds. I started out with tapping, but slowly started to also do other things. People mentioned they liked my voice, so I started including that in videos for ASMR purposes as well. I personally like whispers more than soft speaking, but soft speaking comes more naturally to me, so I stick to that.

I always try to stay true to myself, which is why I do not go out of my way to make super elaborate role-plays on subjects I don’t know. Personal attention is no trigger for me, so I just make sounds I know I would like, and sometimes take requests if it is feasible for me.

I think my video style has not evolved a lot over the years, it’s still really casual, although I have upgraded my mic and I maybe am a bit more confident because of my experience.”

What motivated you to create your blog?

Jolien, “My blog was mostly just an experiment to see if I could think of things to write about and have fun. I also post my videos on there, just because it makes sense as they’re both social media channels I use.

It’s a low priority project now, as I am busy finishing up university and since I barely even have time to make videos at the moment. The only posts I consistently make are monthly nail polish posts.”

Do you have any interesting changes or additions planned for your blog or video channel?

Jolien, “Well next January 3rd is my channels 5 year anniversary, so I have some ideas on how to celebrate but I don’t want to spoil things. What I want mostly now is just the time and peace of mind to make more videos, as I have not been able to keep up my video per two weeks for months now, which I find a real shame. I live in a noisy area, so I have a hard time finding moments where recordings won’t get ruined by surroundings.”

From a biological perspective, what do you think is happening when someone experiences ASMR?

Jolien, “I have a degree in ecology, not neurology, and I don’t like mindless speculating. Most I dare to say that the only organ I think is involved is the brain, and I would not be surprised if dopamine was an important part of the sensation, since it’s involved in most things pleasurable.”

From an evolutionary perspective, why do you think people experience ASMR?

Jolien, “Whenever I see animals grooming each other, and you see the one being groomed turn into mush, I wonder if they experience something that could be related to or considered ASMR.

Since such a small part of humans experience the tingles, I don’t think it has an important purpose, I feel like this would be a random trait. I do think it is inherited, since my dad experiences ASMR as well, and I find it hard to believe that that’s a coincidence.

It could attribute to bonding when caring for each other, but it’s not a reliable thing because of the small percentage of people feeling it. Maybe it could even be detrimental in some cases, can’t be good if you’re being distracted by relaxation by sounds the wind in the grass makes when you have to look out for food or predators. So yeah, pretty much a random trait that we now can take advantage of.”

Do you think ASMR is helpful to people?

Jolien, “Yes! This is something that I am convinced of. I know how important sleep is to me, and even though I have never suffered real insomnia, I have times where I can’t get my mind to turn off when I’m in bed. By focusing on a video I can clear my head and fall asleep. That alone is worth something.

And then there are people who are suffering from mental disorders like depression and anxiety. I have received comments and messages of people who had panic attacks that eased away quicker because of my videos. I can see the comments and views, but to think that my videos can have such an impact on someone else’s life if just astounding. And it is a great motivation to keep making videos.”

What is the biggest mystery to you about ASMR which you would like to see researched?

Jolien, “If I have to pick one? Difficult… I am going for whether we can find genes related to experiencing (degrees of) ASMR, and find out that way whether ASMR is a heritable trait.”

What would you say to a room full of scientists and clinicians wondering if investing time and money into the understanding and application of ASMR is important?

Jolien, “If you look at comments on ASMR videos you can already see the positive impact it has on people. The potential for helping people with mental problems is huge. Even trying to understand what it is that causes people to simply relax is already valuable, as we all know how stress and burn-out is becoming a real problem in the western world.

Also from a cultural perspective ASMR is impressive: ASMR is an aspect of humans that is newly described, and it would have never made it that far if not for a big, loyal and determined online community. A whole new research field is opening up now, which is rare in modern times.

Who knows what kind of amazing things we can discover about ourselves in the search of what ASMR is.”

Click HERE to visit Jolien’s YouTube channel (in English)

Click HERE to visit Jolien’s website (in Dutch)

Click HERE to read more about the potential biological and evolutionary origins of ASMR

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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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