Graduate student completes dissertation about ASMR and skin conductance

Damiana Conti is  a graduate student pursuing her Masters of Science degree in the Department of Psychology at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Milan, Italy.

She focused her dissertation project on analyzing the subjective feelings and objective skin conductance responses to ASMR videos.

An increase in skin conductance is a measure of increased physiological arousal, like excitement or alertness.  ASMR is usually thought of as a state of relaxation with decreased arousal, although there are several reports that suggest ASMR has a slight increased level of physiological arousal to it.

Below are a summary of her methods, some of her exciting data, and a link to her completed dissertation.

Damiana recruited 30 participants (14 females, 16 males; Mean age 30.5 years; Age range 20-68 years) from the local university population.  Informed consent was administered, and no inclusion or exclusion criteria were applied besides minimum age.

After recruitment, the participants were surveyed about their ASMR awareness and experiences.  I have grouped the ASMR status of the participants as:

  • 50% (n=15) ASMR Naive
    • unaware of ASMR
  • 43% (n=13) ASMR Aware
    • aware of ASMR and have watched about 1-3 ASMR videos
  • 7% (n=2) ASMR Enthusiasts
    • aware and watch ASMR videos frequently

Three  videos of 6 minutes in length were selected.  The audio was extracted from each video to create 3  audio files.  This  resulted in 6 test files:

  • 1 Control video and 1 Control audio:
    • Content: car in car wash machine.
  • 2 ASMR videos and 2 ASMR audios:
    • Content: front view of ASMR artists (1 male, 1 female) touching silicone ears of binaural microphone, no speaking.

Participants sat comfortably in a quiet and dimly lit room, watched/listened to the 6 test files in random order while their skin conductance was measured.  They also pressed buttons to indicate pleasant or unpleasant responses while watching/listening, and afterwards they answered survey questions about tingles, relaxation, annoyance, stress, and sadness.

Unpleasant & Pleasant responses (% of participants who clicked the “unpleasant” and/or “pleasant” button at least once)

  • Control video: 13% unpleasant, 43% pleasant
  • Control audio: 27% unpleasant, 37% pleasant
  • ASMR male video: 47% unpleasant, 33% pleasant
  • ASMR male audio: 40% unpleasant, 30% pleasant
  • ASMR female video: 50% unpleasant, 33% pleasant
  • ASMR female audio: 40% unpleasant, 33% pleasant

Measurements of skin conductance (0.0 – 3.0 scale):

  • Both ASMR videos:  2.0-2.5 (strongest response)
  • ASMR audios and Control audio:  1.5-2.0 (middle response)
  • Control video:  1.0-1.5 (weakest response)
  • Note: there were no significant differences between male vs female participant responses.

Reporting of tingles after experiments:

  • ASMR Naive (n=15):  20% felt tingles (n=3)
  • ASMR Aware (n=13):  23% felt tingles (n=3)
  • ASMR Enthusiasts (n=2): 100% felt tingles (n=2)

Analysis of reported feelings (tingles, relaxation, annoyance), and measured skin conductance (via a repeated measures ANOVA within-between subjects)

  • Participants who reported feeling tingles (n=8) showed significantly greater increases in skin conductance during the testing  compared to those who did not report tingles.
  • Participants reporting tingles were more likely to report feeling relaxed (100% of those feeling tingles also felt relaxed, 73% of those not feeling tingles felt relaxed).
  • Participants who  reported feeling relaxed (n=24) did not show significantly greater increases in skin conductance compared to those who did not report feeling relaxed.
  • Participants who reported feeling annoyed (n=20)  did not show significantly greater increases in skin conductance compared to those who did not report feeling annoyed (responses of annoyance were more likely to occur to the ASMR videos than other stimuli).

Additional analysis:

  • Feeling tingles was not associated with gender, stress level, or feeling sad.
  • Feeling tingles was significantly associated with a decreased report of having trouble sleeping (0% of those who did feel tingles reported trouble sleeping, 41% of those who didn’t feel tingles reported trouble sleeping).
  • Feeling relaxed or feeling annoyed by ASMR videos was not associated with gender, stress, feeling sad, or trouble sleeping.

Summary

The results of this dissertation support the following:

  • ASMR videos elicit higher arousal than non-ASMR videos.
  • Tingles are associated with increased skin conductance and also with increased reports of relaxation.
  • About 20% of ASMR naive individuals feel tingles and about 30% of a random population may feel tingles.
  • ASMR videos are an idiosyncratic experience and may be pleasant or unpleasant for different individuals.
  • Responses to ASMR videos do not seem to be related to the gender of the viewer.

This article is just a brief overview of Damiana’s methods, findings, and interpretations.   See below to read her full dissertation.

Click to read the full details of Damiana’s dissertation:

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 data.

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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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