Undergraduate student shares results of research project about ASMR and anxiety

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityStacey Watkins is a senior Clinical Psychology major at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania, USA.

I wrote an earlier article about her when she began collecting data for her research project titled, “ASMR and the Reduction of Anxiety”.

Good news, Stacey has completed the research project and has some interesting data about ASMR and anxiety to share.

In my interview with Stacey she explains the goal and methods of her project, her findings related to her 5 hypotheses, an unexpected finding in her data set, challenges she encountered in her project, and tips for other ASMR researchers.

Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics, a link to her prior interview, and links to learn more about doing ASMR research.

What was the general goal of your project?

“The goal of my project was to discover causation between experiencing ASMR and experiencing a reduction of anxiety.”

What methods did you use?

“Eighteen undergraduate students from Marywood University were recruited for this study. Subjects were given a series of questionnaires in a paper-and-pencil format: a demographic portion, an anxiety portion measuring current anxiety, a standardized anxiety scale measuring current anxiety, and an ASMR portion measuring the ability to experience ASMR along with ASMR-related media viewing habits.

Subjects were also asked to watch a roughly 6 minute ASMR video while wearing binaural headphones.

Subjects completed the demographic portion, anxiety portion, and standardized anxiety scale. After completion, subjects viewed the ASMR video. After viewing the video, subjects completed the anxiety portion and standardized anxiety scale again. Then finally, subjects completed the ASMR portion.

Data was analyzed using Repeated Measures ANOVA in SPSS.”

You initially had 5 hypotheses, what did you find out about each of these hypotheses and what additional thoughts do you have about your findings for each hypothesis?

Hypothesis #1) people who experience ASMR show greater reduced anxiety levels than people who do not experience ASMR.

Findings/data: “There was a significant effect of time (before and after watching the video) on the reduction of anxiety (F(1,16)=5.217, P=.036). However, there was no interaction between time (before and after watching the video) and experiencing ASMR (F(1,16)=0.665, P=.427).”

Implications: “The only factor that influenced the ability to reduce anxiety was the passage of time (before and after watching the video). Watching the video itself was enough to significantly reduce anxiety in subjects, which means there was a characteristic of the video that reduced anxiety on its own. However, experiencing ASMR, which encompasses tingling and/or euphoric sensations, was not a factor in the ability to reduce anxiety, thus leading to the rejection of hypothesis 1.”

Hypothesis #2) people who experience tingling and/or euphoric sensations while experiencing ASMR show greater reduced anxiety levels than people who do not experience those sensations.

Findings/data: “Same as above.”

Implications: “Same as above; rejection of hypothesis 2.”

Hypothesis #3) the ability to cope with one’s anxiety increases after experiencing ASMR.

Findings/data: “There was no interaction between coping with anxiety and experiencing ASMR (F(1,16)=2.844, P=.111).”

Implications: “The ability to cope with one’s anxiety did not significantly change after watching the video, regardless if the subject did or did not experience ASMR, thus leading to the rejection of hypothesis 3.”

Hypothesis #4) 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.

Findings/data: “There was not enough data to calculate hypothesis 4.”

Implications: “Of the eighteen subjects, only two reported to have previously viewed ASMR-related media, and only one of the two for the purpose of reducing anxiety levels. This data is very limited; I believe it is because ASMR is still in its infancy and few have been exposed to it.”

Hypothesis #5) people with higher anxiety levels consume more ASMR-related media than people with lower anxiety levels.

Findings/data: “There was not enough data to calculate hypothesis 5.”

Implications: “Same as above.”

Did your project have any unexpected results?

“It surprisingly did! While calculating anxiety levels before and after watching the video, I discovered that there was a very large significant difference for those who do and do not experience ASMR (F(1,16)=33.598, P=.000); those who do experience ASMR reported less overall anxiety.

The act of experiencing ASMR with its tingling and euphoric sensations (hypotheses 1 and 2) did not have an effect on reducing anxiety levels; it was the ability to experience ASMR that had an effect on the overall anxiety levels. Below is a graph to demonstrate.

*Note: Anxiety levels were measured using a standardized anxiety scale with a 0-80 range.”

Do you have plans to publish your findings?

“I do not currently have plans to publish my findings. However, I would be more than happy to discuss my findings further with fellow researchers and ASMR enthusiasts!”

What challenges did you encounter throughout the project?

“After watching the video, half of the subjects reported that the video “annoyed and/or irritated” them. I showed a video that used crisp sounds and relaxing hand movements as triggers. It came to my attention during the experiment that some triggers could lead to a misophonic reaction in individuals, which is what I believe unfortunately happened to these subjects.

I also would have liked a larger subject pool for my project. This sample had sixteen females and two males, ranging from ages 18-24. The roles of gender and age could have manipulated the results of this study.”

Now that you have completed the study, what further advice would you give to other students thinking about starting an ASMR research study?

“First, brainstorm your study in-depth. Ask yourself who you want your target population to be (those who do or do not experience ASMR, or both?). Then, choose your experiments and/or questionnaires appropriately. Pay attention to how you word them.

If you have many ideas you’d like to research, it is okay if you don’t incorporate them all into one single study. Your main research question can become lost. Instead, you can always conduct additional studies in the future.

Lastly, it is okay if your hypotheses are not significant. Don’t get discouraged. While analyzing my results, I grew nervous because I couldn’t find anything significant. After taking a step back and thinking outside the box, I realized there was a significant finding between the anxiety levels of the two groups of subjects. It is important to look between the lines of your data. Because ASMR is still a young research topic, any results, significant or not, can have an impact on the knowledge of the topic.”

Do you have ideas or plans for another ASMR research project?

“I currently do not have plans for another ASMR research project. However, after discovering there was a significant difference of anxiety between those who do and do not experience ASMR, it would be interesting to research more differences between those who do and do not experience the sensation.”

Click HERE to read a prior interview with Stacey Watkins.

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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