Stacey Watkins is a senior Clinical Psychology major at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA.
As part of her degree requirement, she has decided to do a research project about ASMR and anxiety. She has already received approval from her school’s Review Committee and has started to collect her data.
In my interview with Stacey she talks about the book which helped to inspire this project, her goals and hypotheses, her research methods, challenges with the project, and tips to other students who may be considering an ASMR research project.
Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics, and links to learn more about doing ASMR research.
What inspired you to do a research project about ASMR?
Stacey, “I have experienced ASMR my entire life, and last year I discovered exactly what the sensation was. A friend let me borrow his copy of Young and Blansert’s book Idiot’s guides: ASMR. After reading it, I was excited to learn about the sensation and that other people felt it too.
I was also excited about the infancy stage this phenomenon is in; not a lot of research has been conducted yet. Because I am required to complete a research project for my undergraduate degree, I decided to choose ASMR as the focal point.”
What is the general goal of this project and why does that interest you?
Stacey, “The goal of my project is to discover causation between experiencing ASMR and experiencing a reduction of anxiety. I wrote my Senior Literature Review on ASMR, and noticed an outpouring from the ASMR community claiming that experiencing ASMR helped to reduce their anxiety.
Because there has not yet been research conducted on the causation between the two sensations, I decided to dedicate my project to finding a possible causation. I am deeply invested in this project because the findings, if proven significant, can contribute to the realm of alternative treatments to reduce anxiety in people that suffer from the disorder’s symptoms.
Do you have a Faculty Advisor/Mentor for this project? Did they know about ASMR?
Stacey, “My professor for this class, which my project is for, is mentoring me throughout the process. He was the same professor I wrote my Senior Literature Review for. He had heard about ASMR previously and suggested it as a form of synesthesia. However, the other professors in my department whom I’ve spoken to regarding my project have not previously heard about ASMR.”
What are your specific hypotheses?
Stacey, “My study has 5 hypotheses:
- People who experience ASMR show greater reduced anxiety levels than people who do not experience ASMR;
- People who experience tingling and/or euphoric sensations while experiencing ASMR show greater reduced anxiety levels than people who do not experience those sensations;
- The ability to cope with one’s anxiety increases after experiencing ASMR;
- People who view ASMR-related media for the purpose of reducing their anxiety show greater reduced anxiety levels than people who view ASMR-related media for other purposes; and
- People with higher anxiety levels consume more ASMR-related media than people with lower anxiety levels.”
What research methods will you be using and did you need to acquire permission from an ethics committee?
Stacey, “Subjects will be given a series of questionnaires: a demographic portion, a standardized anxiety scale, an anxiety portion, and an ASMR portion. They will also be shown a 5-minute ASMR video via YouTube while wearing binaural headphones.
The questionnaires will be administered to subjects on a one-by-one basis. Subjects will complete the demographic portion, the standardized anxiety scale, and the anxiety portion. After completion, subjects will view the same ASMR video for 5 minutes while wearing binaural headphones. After completion, subjects will complete the standardized anxiety scale and anxiety portion again. After completion, subjects will complete the ASMR portion.
Before executing my project, I needed to be granted permission from my school’s Exempt Review Committee (ERC).”
What has been the most challenging part of this study so far?
Stacey, “The most challenging part so far has been to word my questions in a way so that both those who do and do not experience ASMR will understand them. Those in the ASMR community will be able to understand words such as “trigger” and “tingles”, but those who have never heard of ASMR or the keywords associated with it will have difficulty understanding the concepts and purpose of these words.”
What do you think will be the most challenging part of your study as you move forward?
Stacey, “I foresee the most challenging part to be recruiting enough subjects who do experience ASMR. Because many people have not heard of ASMR, let alone ever experienced it, I believe relying on a random sample of subjects will be challenging to produce significant results.”
What excites you the most about doing this study?
Stacey, “I am very excited to see what the results of my project will be. Even if they are not significant, they will be able to contribute to the growing scientific field of ASMR. However, if they are significant, the results have the potential to help people who do experience anxiety to lower the intensity of their symptoms. I am also excited about validating the consensus from the ASMR community that experiencing ASMR helps to reduce their anxiety.”
What advice would you give so far to other students thinking about starting an ASMR research study?
Stacey, “Gain as much information about the phenomenon as possible. Read the literature that is available to you, down to blog posts and forums. Also think about who you want your target population to be; that way you will be able to formulate your methods appropriately. All in all, have fun with it, and watch ASMR videos on your study breaks!”
Links about ASMR research:
- Starting steps for how to be an ASMR researcher.
- Read interviews with ASMR researchers.
- Read about more ASMR research and publications.
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