Graduate student completes research study about the role of ASMR in the service industry

ASMR Autonomous Sensory Meridian ResponseI posted a prior article titled, “Participate in a research study about the role of ASMR in the service industry.

Good news, the research study is completed and some results are now available.

The researcher was Vladimir Fedoseev, a graduate student pursuing his MBA at the Varna University of Management in Varna, Bulgaria (a partner university of Cardiff Metropolitan University in Wales).

His dissertation focused on the involvement of ASMR in the service industry and is titled, “Effect of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) on Service User Experience”

He investigated how ASMR triggers, like soft speech, gentle sounds, careful hand movements, light touch, personal attention, and kind personalities, might effect experiences with hairdressers, doctors, hotel clerks, and others in the service industry.

In this second interview with Vladimir he reviews the details of his methods and shares some results of his research project.

One curious observation I noticed in his results is that gentle sounds, soft speech, and personal attention were the top triggers perceived by participants to cause ASMR in services, but the services with increasing reliance of light touch (like a hairdresser) showed increasing likelihood of stimulating ASMR.  This could imply that light touch is a stronger contributor in service-mediated ASMR than the participants realized.

Below are my questions in bold, his replies in italics, and links to learn more about his research project.

What inspired you to do an ASMR research project?

With my course project in Operations Management on automatisation of a service, I found that there are 2 often opposite ways of enhancing a service: adding “high-tech” (automatisation) and “high-touch” (more human and personal) features. Finding which services benefit from more personal design sounded like dissertation material.

Then I realised that I keep coming to the coffee shop where I often get ASMR and that this is quite a significant part of the process for me. I always wondered how ASMR, and particulary real-life ASMR, works. Also I was inspired by the facts that so many people report experiencing real-life ASMR primarily because of services and that service roleplay ASMR videos are very popular.

Then I found out about ASMR University and read some interesting articles and findings about ASMR. The fact that real-life ASMR is researched even less made me sure that the data will be very interesting. The kindness of ASMR community made collecting many responses sound feasible.

What were your main research questions?

The aim of this research was to investigate how ASMR occurs in services and what is the effect of ASMR and its triggers on the overall service experience. This was to be achieved together with the four following objectives and research questions:

1. Compare ASMR frequency in services and in real life in general. First objective facilitated three important findings: how frequently ASMR-sensitive individuals experience real-life ASMR, how often such ASMR occurs in services and what is the popularity of services as a source of ASMR experiences.
RQ1. How often ASMR-sensitive individuals experience real-life ASMR in general and in services?

2. Compare the effect of real-life ASMR triggers on service experience of individuals that do and do not experience ASMR;
RQ2. How ASMR triggers affect the service experience of individuals that do and do not experience ASMR?

3. Find whether experiencing ASMR positively affects service experience;
This objective was set to investigate the effect of actually experiencing ASMR. Prior personal interviews and questionnaire pilot tests showed the possibility of real-life ASMR experience being intimidating and uncomfortable, especially when the setting, surroundings or the person being the reason of ASMR are unpleasant or confusing in terms of associations with ASMR established by an individual. Thus, the research investigated how often real-life ASMR is unpleasant in services and anywhere but services to be unbiased and to follow the symmetry of outcomes (“what if ASMR is sometimes unpleasant in services?”). This also showed if services are more or less the subject to “worse” ASMR than other settings.
RQ3. Does experiencing ASMR positively affects service user experience?
RQ4. How often can real-life ASMR experience be unpleasant in services and anywhere but services?
RQ5. Which factors may worsen a real-life ASMR experience in services?

4. Compare and link the likelihoods of different services and triggers in services to induce ASMR.
RQ6. What is the likelihood of different services to cause ASMR?
RQ7. What is the likelihood of different triggers to cause ASMR in services?

What general methods did you use to collect your data?

Interviews would be best to investigate real-life ASMR thoroughly. However, to give some ground for the future research, this study features a survey of internationally spread sample of substantial size with replicable quantitative data. This allows justifying the existence of real-life ASMR and support future deeper research of real-life ASMR first.

To compare the effect of ASMR triggers in terms of RQ2 and to find whether the effect of the triggers is significantly different for ASMR-sensitive individuals from the effect for others, individuals who do not have ASMR were asked the questions on triggers as controls.

What services did you focus on?

To investigate ASMR and its triggers in services in general, while asking about specific experiences, six different services are introduced in the questionnaire: hairdresser service, coffee shop, hotel check-in, doctor (GP/therapist) consultation/examination, supermarket cashier service and customer service phone call.

All these services, except supermarket, can be found as YouTube roleplay videos and are reported as real-life ASMR experiences online; hairdresser and doctor (dentist) services are reported in the literature. In addition, the selected services differ in the average duration, the amount of physical contact, the extent of personalisation, privacy of the atmosphere and the amount of personal interaction; they also have completely different service design.

Customer service (CS) phone call does not imply visiting the service setting, so it does not feature physical presence of the triggers just like ASMR video. However, this service was expected to show similar results, as sound triggers and personal attention are most likely to induce ASMR. Supermarket cashier service is included as a control service, since it features the least amount of personal interaction and an unfavourable atmosphere for ASMR experiences.

What triggers did you focus on?

Triggers found in the literature, both real-life ones and ones that are mentioned regardless of their origin, were combined with triggers in some online reports on ASMR University “Voices of ASMR” and “r/asmr” subreddit and categorized.

However, all mentioned triggers never appear as purely “real-life” ones in the literature, which supports the contribution of RQ7. The triggers were are also divided by human senses, because people vary in performance of their sensory channels due to individual differences, previous sensory experience and even cultural and linguistic differences.

Triggers for the questionnaire are derived by generalising examples found for each category into one trigger; that is done for minimising the questionnaire, while making triggers more relatable for ASMR-sensitive individuals and understandable for others. The triggers used are: Soft and kind speech, Gentle sounds, Careful hand movements, Light touch Caring personal attention, Soft and kind temper / personality.

The touch trigger was never investigated before, as it is purely real-life trigger that you cannot transmit with a video. Oral triggers are represented only by “soft and kind speech” as “whispering” is not applicable in many services and “chewing” or other mouth sounds can cause misophonia as well. Other triggers use more relatable wording that is reported online.

What type of questions did you ask?

To investigate the total effect of ASMR triggers on SUX in terms of RQ2, respondents were asked to assess statements about the overall enhancement of SUX by each trigger in each service with level of agreement Likert scale. Each statement was worded with “I enjoy” and “I like” phrases and explanation of each trigger in the context of each service. These questions were organised in blocks by service to better imagine a service context and put in random order in each block to engage respondents more with similarly looking questions and to reduce bias.

To assess the frequency of real-life ASMR in general and in services for RQ1, ordinal scale of frequency that is natural to respond to is adapted from the current biggest ASMR survey. To investigate the frequency of real-life ASMR being unpleasant, respondents were asked to report the frequency of it being uncomfortable and unpleasant in services and anywhere but services with frequency Likert scale. For likelihood of triggers and services to induce ASMR, two blocks of such questions with likelihood Likert scales were introduced.

To investigate the overall effect of ASMR on SUX, a block with statements “ASMR enhances my service experience at/with/during a” followed by the names of the services was introduced with level of agreement Likert scales.

How did you distribute your survey?

The questionnaire has been distributed from May 18th to July 6th 2018 and available in English and Russian languages. For solid international sample of both groups, non-probability convenience and snowball sampling methods were used: participants were asked to share the survey on their social media and with others, regardless of their ASMR-sensitivity.

Link to the questionnaire was initially posted online in researcher’s social media accounts and in various communities, international and country-specific, both dedicated to ASMR and to common, not specific subjects that could bias the sample. To target large amount of ASMR-sensitive individuals, ASMR-dedicated YouTube channels hosts have shared the link: “ASMR Darya”, “Skela La ASMR”, “Bluewhisper” and “seb ASMR”. In total, 4249 responses were collected; 2288 left after eliminating invalid ones.

Most of the respondents are 34 or younger; are from Russia, USA or UK; from the total amount, 385 were not ASMR-sensitive.

What answers did you get to each of your research questions?

RQ1. How often ASMR-sensitive individuals experience real-life ASMR in general and in services?

84,3% of ASMR-sensitive individuals experience it in real-life, 73,4% do so in services. Frequencies of general real-life ASMR and in services are positively related. Nearly half of sensitive individuals has ASMR once a month or less, both in services and in general; the rest tend to experience both several days a month. Substantial share (12,5% – general, 10,6% – services) experience both several days a week or every day.

RQ2. How ASMR triggers affect the service experience of individuals that do and do not experience?

ASMR-sensitive individuals enjoy all the presented triggers in all selected services more. The differences between two groups are significant for most of the cases, except “attention” and “temper” triggers in all services. “Attention”, “temper” and “speech” affect service user experience (SUX) of both groups in all the selected services as “high-touch” cues. ASMR triggers affect SUX in hairdresser, doctor and hotel check-in services the best, as they are more high-touch and experience-centric services.

RQ3. Does experiencing ASMR positively affects service user experience?

Yes, on average, ASMR positively affects SUX in hairdresser and doctor services, and nearly positively in hotel check-in service.

RQ4. How often can real-life ASMR experience be unpleasant in services and anywhere but services?

ASMR is very rarely unpleasant or uncomfortable both in services and elsewhere. Not in services, unpleasant ASMR occurs slightly more often than uncomfortable one. Unpleasant ASMR occurs slightly less often in services than elsewhere.

RQ5. Which factors may worsen a real-life ASMR experience in services?

No proposed factors worsen a real-life ASMR experience in services, those are: person causing it, non-human trigger causing it, surroundings and one’s current mood.

RQ6. What is the likelihood of different services to cause ASMR?

Hairdresser (higher than “somewhat likely”), doctor (below “somewhat likely”) and hotel check-in (below “neither likely nor unlikely”) services are the most likely to induce ASMR. Likelihood of a service to cause ASMR positively correlates with the sensitivity in other services. Perhaps it is connected with the “overall” ASMR-sensitivity.

RQ7. What is the likelihood of different triggers to cause ASMR in services?

All the proposed triggers are somewhat likely to cause ASMR in services. “Gentle sounds” trigger is the most likely to do so, followed by speech, attention and temper triggers. Sensitivity to each trigger grows with the sensitivities to others. Likelihoods of triggers to induce ASMR (or sensitivity) correlate more if they are perceived with one sensory channel.

What finding(s) surprised you the most?

Finding that the likelihood of triggers to induce ASMR correlates better if those triggers are perceived with the same sensory channel was very surprising and unexpected. However, I did not intend to investigate this and the evidence is scarce. So this observation might have occurred because of other reasons and it will take more research to prove this.

I was also surprised that the likelihoods resembled the percentages of the participants triggered by each trigger in the study of Barratt & Davis (2015). Careful movements there is also the least effective trigger there and auditory and attention triggers also lead and show results close to each other. This proves the findings of Barratt & Davis with more data, shows that my research was quite reliable and shows that the effectiveness of triggers in videos and in real-life is quite connected.

What challenges did you encounter during this study?

I was hoping to collect more responses from non-ASMR-sensitive individuals and I still do, as I am currently continuing to collect data. It was also challenging to make a concise questionnaire, not to mention finding literature. Not only ASMR is under-researched, but also service experience is a relatively young discipline which is yet to incorporate such responses and elaborate on “soft” issues of human interaction.

Do you plan to publish or publicly share your full results?

Definitely I want to publish it! I guess it might be interesting for future researchers of real-life ASMR. It also slightly broadens the view on what people might experience during a service for the management literature, and thus brings a little bit more academic attention to ASMR, which is great.

For this questionnaire I am going to collect a little bit more responses and do fancier analysis, as I have included more questions than I used in my dissertation, planning something more ahead. After that I will try my luck with journals.

Any future plans for another ASMR research project?

The previous question covers it a little. Also, elaborating on the data I have and maybe adding interviews I might end up with one more research about ASMR and repeat service usage. If I have more responses from around the world I might also correlate the data with cultural differences , which is really, really very interesting.

That being said, I really wish more people share my survey link. The survey is also available in Chinese now!

What advice or tips would you give to someone else considering an ASMR research project?

If relevant, try to handle the following observations the best possible way:

  • Different people experience ASMR differently;
  • Some people occasionally find ASMR unpleasant or confusing;
  • Many people experience ASMR but have never heard that term or watched an ASMR video. All these ASMR-capable individuals may probably experience ASMR differently;
  • Some people have preferences towards the gender of a person that causes their ASMR.

Links for this 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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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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