Peer-reviewed research publication about ASMR, personality, empathy, and triggers

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response UniversityThis is the fourth peer-reviewed research study about ASMR.  It was published March 30, 2017 in the journal Multisensory Research.

The research paper is titled, “Assessing individual variation in personality and empathy traits in self-Reported Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response”.

Dr Agnieszka Janik McErlean (Department of Psychology, James Cook University, Singapore) and Dr Michael Banissy (Department of Psychology, Goldsmiths University of London, UK) performed the research and co-authored the paper.

The study involved an online survey administered to two groups of participants with an average age of 26 years.

The first group were 83 ASMR-responders (70% female) recruited from an ASMR Facebook Group who self-reported experiencing ASMR.

The second group were 85  ASMR-nonresponders (80% female) recruited from local university students who self-reported not experiencing ASMR.

The survey assessed three general areas:

  • Personality
  • Empathy
  • ASMR trigger responses

For assessment of personality, the researchers used the Big Five Inventory to measure the following big five personality traits:

  • Openness: how imaginative, excitable, and curious one is.
  • Agreeableness: one’s propensity for altruism and compliance.
  • Conscientiousness: degree of dutifulness, competence, and self-discipline.
  • Extraversion: how sociable and energetic one is.
  • Neuroticism: individual’s level of anxiety, self-consciousness, and vulnerability.

Both groups showed the same trend for the strength of the personality types within each group, from stronger to weaker: Openness > Agreeableness > Conscientiousness > Extraversion > Neuroticism.

This means that Openness was the most dominating trait and Neuroticism was the least dominating trait in both groups.

However, the ASMR-responders showed significantly higher scores for Openness and significantly lower scores for conscientiousness than ASMR-nonresponders.

This means that ASMR-responders may be more open to new experiences and have less self-discipline than ASMR-non-responders.

For assessment of empathy, the researchers used the Inter-Personal Reactivity Index to measure the following empathy traits:

  • Fantasizing: propensity to get immersed in a novel or film.
  • Empathic Concern: ability to feel sorry and concerned for others in distress.
  • Perspective Taking: ability to adopt someone else’s point of view.
  • Personal Distress: feelings of anxiety induced by others’ distress.

Both groups showed a similar, but slightly different, trend for the strength of the empathy types within each group.

Empathy traits for ASMR-responders, from stronger to weaker: Fantasizing > Empathic Concern > Perspective Taking > Personal Distress.

Empathy traits for ASMR-nonresponders, from stronger to weaker: Perspective Taking > Empathic Concern > Fantasizing > Personal Distress.

This means that Fantasizing was the strongest empathy trait of ASMR-responders but Perspective Taking was the strongest empathy trait of ASMR-nonresponders.  Both groups had Empathic Concern as their second strongest trait and Personal Distress as their weakest trait.

Interestingly, the only two traits which significantly differed between the two groups were Fantasizing and Empathic Concern.

ASMR-responders scored significantly higher for Fantasizing and Empathic Concern than ASMR-nonresponders, and both groups scored the same for Perspective Taking and Personal Distress.

This means that ASMR-responders may have a greater propensity to get immersed in a novel or film, and may have a greater ability to feel sorry and concerned for others in distress than ASMR-nonresponders.

The third major focus of the online survey included questions about ASMR triggers and this data was only collected from the ASMR-responders.

For the first set of data, the participants were asked,  “What is your motivation for watching ASMR videos?” and were allowed to type in a response.

Motivation for watching ASMR videos:

  • To relax or to experience ASMR (86%)
  • To help fall asleep (41%)
  • To reduce anxiety (11%)

For the next set of data, the participants answered the question: “What is your favourite trigger – the one which is most likely to induce ASMR?” and again, were allowed to type in a response.

Top 3 ASMR triggers reported to induce ASMR:

  • Whisper (41%)
  • Crisp sounds (36%)
  • Personal attention (35%)

For the next sets of data, participants were instructed, “Please indicate if the following triggers have an effect on you (induce ASMR) and to what extent.”   The effect options were, “no effect; feel unpleasant/uncomfortable; mild effect; strong effect (easily induces ASMR).” A list of triggers was provided.  The methods indicate that the list of triggers were, “triggers commonly used in ASMR videos.”

Top 5 reported triggers to induce ASMR (first percent = mild + strong effect)

  • Whispering (85% ASMR, 54% strong ASMR)
  • Spa visit role-plays (78% ASMR, 40% strong ASMR)
  • Hair brushing (76% ASMR, 49% strong ASMR)
  • Doctor visit role-plays (72% ASMR, 45% strong ASMR)
  • Finger tapping (69% ASMR, 21% strong ASMR)
  • [Erratum: author has confirmed paper has typo in Table 1, the “strong effect” for Finger tapping should be 20.5 not 53.  Above summary represents correction]

Top 5 triggers reported to have unpleasant/uncomfortable effect:

  • Eating sounds (25%)
  • Crinkly plastic (12%)
  • Crinkly wrapping paper (10%)
  • Finger tapping (5%)
  • Doctor role-plays (4%)

Top 5 triggers reported to have no effect:

  • Folding towels (61%)
  • Eating sounds (49%)
  • Office role-plays (34%)
  • Typing (33%)
  • Crinkly plastic (31%)

Click the links below to learn more about this research:

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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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.

One thought on “Peer-reviewed research publication about ASMR, personality, empathy, and triggers

  1. Pingback: Interview with Dr Agnieszka Janik McErlean – lead author of the research study on ASMR triggers, personality, and empathy | ASMR University

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