Researchers at the University of Winnipeg in Canada have recently published their second peer-reviewed research publication about ASMR.
The paper is titled, “An Examination of Personality Traits Associated with Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR)” and was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology on February 23, 2017.
The publication was authored by Beverley Fredborg, an adjunct lab member in the Embodied Emotion Laboratory, Dr. Jim Clark, the Chair of the Department of Psychology, and Dr. Stephen Smith, an Associate Professor in the Department of Psychology.
I recently wrote a short article which summarized some of the findings of this new publication.
This article now brings you an explanation of their study in the words of the lead author, Beverley “Bev” Fredborg, who is also currently pursuing her Master’s degree in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada.
In my interview with Bev she shares how they recruited participants and determined ASMR sensitivity, what they discovered about personality traits and ASMR triggers, if challenges were encountered in their study, and the focus of their next research publication.
Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics, a link to their recent ASMR research paper, and links to learn more about the authors and their prior ASMR research publication.
This is your second publication about ASMR, is this a hopeful sign of many more ASMR research projects and publications in your future?
Bev, “The laboratory of Dr. Stephen D. Smith at the University of Winnipeg is still abuzz with research activity related to ASMR, so, yes – this is a good sign.“
How did the idea for this study evolve?
Bev, “In 2015, Barratt and Davis published the first study of individuals with ASMR, which served as inspiration for our work. We wanted to similarly survey individuals with ASMR, but use well-established (valid and reliable) test measures to do so, as well as to administer our lab’s self-created ASMR questionnaire to a large group of people to see if it was a good measure of ASMR triggers.”
How did you recruit and select the participants?
Bev, “We asked the kind people on the ASMR subreddit (www.reddit.com/r/ASMR) to participate and we had almost 300 people respond! It’s wonderful to have so many people interested in spending their time to answer a survey about ASMR – this is exactly how we will learn more about it.”
How did you determine the ASMR-sensitive participants from the matched controls?
Bev, “We hired a survey company, Qualtrics, to find matched controls for us who were compensated for their time completing the survey. We wanted to be sure that they did not have ASMR, so they were asked to watch a popular ASMR video, and then answer a few screening questions about their experience while watching the video, and about potential past ASMR experiences.
It’s not a perfect method, but it is the best we can do given that so few people know and understand what ASMR is, and often confuse ASMR with getting “chills” (frissons), which appears to be a related, yet different, concept.”
What survey tools did you use in this project?
Bev, “In this specific publication, we analyzed data from the Big Five Index and an ASMR checklist that we created. The Big Five Index is a well-established measure of personality characteristics used by psychologists and researchers around the world.
The theory is that one’s personality can be characterized by five major factors: Openness to Experience, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. We wanted to see how individuals with ASMR and people without ASMR who are the same age and gender differ on each of these five factors.”
What associations did you find between personality types and ASMR?
Bev, “We found significant differences between ASMR participants and the control participants on all five factors of the Big Five Index. Specifically, we found that people with ASMR were more likely to report higher levels of neuroticism as well as openness-to experience than control participants, which we had expected based on past research.
In contrast, we found that people with ASMR were more likely to report lower levels of conscientiousness, extraversion, and agreeableness than control participants, which we had not expected. The paper (which is freely available) goes into much more detail on what we make of these findings.”
You also included an ASMR trigger checklist in your survey, how did you select the triggers for this list?
Bev, “We looked at popular ASMR YouTube videos for common triggers, and the Barratt & Davis paper from 2015 in which common ASMR triggers are reported.”
What did you learn from the answers to the ASMR checklist?
Bev, “It further affirmed that people very much differ on the types of stimuli that trigger their tingles. For instance, most individuals with ASMR appear to be triggered by whispering, but subsets of individuals with ASMR further enjoy tapping noises, watching someone get their nails/makeup done, haircut simulations, watching someone draw, etc.
This isn’t exactly a surprise – you can tell that people differ on their triggers just by looking at YouTube and seeing the vast number of unique videos! Regardless, it was interesting and valuable to see this reflected in the data.
Perhaps further studies could look at why certain videos are triggering and which aren’t – what is the threshold at which a video changes from “pleasant” to “ASMR-inducing” – and why certain people enjoy certain triggers over others.”
What challenges did you run into while planning the study, collecting the data, working with the data, and/or submitting the data for publication?
Bev, “This study was relatively smooth sailing. We piloted our questionnaire on a small group of people and received a lot of great feedback about small details, which ended up being extraordinarily helpful and is a good practice to get into when doing survey research.
When it was time to administer the questionnaire to the kind people on Reddit, we felt confident that we had the finished product we were looking for. We also had a great experience working with the team at the survey company, Qualtrics, who provided us with age- and gender-matched control data in a very reasonable amount of time.”
What will be the focus of your next ASMR research next publication?
Bev, “Hopefully we will be able to publish the other half of the data of this project, which focuses on measures of mindfulness. Mindfulness has already been touched upon by other research groups, including Barratt & Davis (2015), so getting this data out there is important as it will further provide a picture of how individuals with ASMR differ from those without it.”
Learn more about the authors:
Click the links below to learn more about this publication:
- Part 1: Summary of the data.
- (Part 2: this article).
- Podcast episode: Audio summary.
- Publication: Access their published research study.
Click the links below to learn more about ASMR research:
- Tips: How to be an ASMR researcher.
- Insight: Interviews with ASMR researchers.
- Browse: ASMR research and publications.
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