Undergraduate student completes research dissertation about ASMR and mood

Georgina Susan Pamela Terzza has recently completed her  BSc in Psychology at the University of Lincoln, England.  She is now pursuing her MSc in Clinical Psychology at the Royal Holloway University of London, England.

For her Bachelor’s Dissertation,  supervised by Dr. Andy Benn, she completed a research project titled, “The effects and benefits of ASMR stimuli on mood.”

For her project, 37 participants (with and without experience watching ASMR videos) watched ASMR videos and completed a survey about their mood.   She found that ASMR videos had a positive effect on mood, and this was independent of prior experience with ASMR videos.

In my interview with Georgina, she provides helpful explanations of her inspiration, goals, methods, findings, interesting moments, and very useful tips for other students researching ASMR.

Below are my questions in bold, her replies in italics, and a link so you can learn more about her.

What inspired you to do your research project on ASMR?

My inspiration to research ASMR started back in 2017 when I started University and had been given more information regarding dissertations and that we could choose our research topic.

This stems from my own personal experience, I have Bipolar and Borderline Personality Disorder.   In 2016 I was attending my mental health appointment when I just had this horrible feeling that I was not being listened to.

I was on a lot of medication at the time and felt like I was only surviving not living. I had been let down causing more anguish within certain sectors of the mental health services. I wanted to find ways of controlling my disorders rather than masking them with medication. I wondered how many other individuals felt unheard which upset me. This is when I decided I wanted to make a difference within the mental health services however knew I had to gain qualifications to be listened to.

One day I was watching Russel Brand on YouTube and he spoke of this phenomenon called ASMR and he described it as being called ‘Brain Orgasm’ which is meant to help people. However, his vlog was not positive and just described ASMR videos as ‘porn for females’. I was intrigued so searched ASMR on YouTube.

After watching ASMR videos I felt the tingling sensation within my head and down my neck, I felt calmer. Before I knew it, I had been watching ASMR for a year as well as being unmedicated for a year. I realised that I had been using ASMR stimuli to regulate and control my mood and emotional disorders. I was amazed at how well I was doing mentally and wanted to know why and how, as unfortunately I had never been able to control my disorders before unless medicated.

I kept thinking if ASMR stimuli have helped me, imagine how many other people it might help for their mental well-being. So, in 2017 after hearing we could research a topic that we were interested in I decided I would research ASMR.

Another 2 years later I was starting my third year at university, I had now been using ASMR stimuli as therapy for 3 years and had been unmedicated for 3 years. I was more convinced than ever that ASMR stimuli had a positive effect on mood.

Now another year later I have completed that research, as well as, being 4 years unmedicated.

What was the goal of your project?

The goal of my project was to see if there was a positive impact on mood after viewing ASMR stimuli regardless of whether an individual had watched it before or experienced ASMR. I wanted to see if there was evidence that ASMR could be beneficial for individuals who needed to relax or de-stress.

My study was approved by the University of Lincoln School of Psychology ethics committee.

How did you recruit your research participants? 

Research participants were recruited with an advertisement that contained a link to the study on Qualtrics. The advertisement was put on social media platforms, such as Facebook Groups for the ASMR community as well as Facebook in general and Instagram.

There were 76 participants who volunteered for the study. Unfortunately, 39 participants were removed as the data was either incomplete or all the consent boxes had not been selected.

The remaining number of participants were 37 (Female = 26, Male = 10, Other = 1). The minimum age of participants was 18 and, the maximum age was 80 (Mage = 30.59, SD = 14.65).

Out of the 37 participants, 26 reported watching ASMR stimuli and 11 reported not watching ASMR stimuli. 

What methods did you use to collect and analyze your data?

The methods I used to collect the data consisted of,
1. Self-made questionnaire based on existing research (Barratt and Davis, 2015) – two demographic questions and 15 questions surrounding ASMR stimuli.
2. Three ASMR videos specifically made for the research, which were randomly allocated.
3. Self-made questionnaire consisting of five questions that corresponded with the ASMR videos.
4. The Abbreviated Profile of Mood States (Grove & Prapavessis, 1992) consists of 40 emotions/feelings an individual experience. Before and after the ASMR stimuli.

Data Analysis,
1. Paired samples t-test was conducted to compare changes in baseline mood and mood after viewing ASMR stimuli.
2. Paired samples t-test was conducted to compare changes in baseline anxiety levels and anxiety levels after viewing ASMR stimuli.
3. One-way between-subject ANOVA was conducted to compare ASMR stimuli trigger type on mood as measured by the POMS.
4. Independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare mood scores after watch ASMR stimuli between individuals who watch ASMR stimuli regularly and those who do not watch ASMR stimuli.
5. Pearson’s correlation was conducted to examine the relationship between having an ASMR experience (yes vs no) and the motive behind using ASMR stimuli (relaxation, mental well-being, relieve symptoms of anxiety, stress, and negative mood).
6. Independent-samples t-test was conducted to compare mood scores before and after watching ASMR stimuli between males and females to see whether both genders experienced the same effect on mood.
7. One sample t-test was conducted to compare mood scores (POMS1, POMS2) after watch ASMR stimuli for individuals who said no to watching ASMR stimuli.
8. One sample t-test was conducted to compare mood scores (POMS1, POMS2) after watching ASMR stimuli for individuals who said no to experiencing ASMR whilst watching the ASMR video which was randomly allocated.

Content Analysis
1. Reasons for watching ASMR stimuli.
2. How do you feel after watching/listening to ASMR stimuli?
3. Positive comments about video 1 (Personal Attention).
4. Positive comments about video 2 (Trigger words).
5. Positive comments about video 3 (Object sounds – no talking).
6. Negative comments about video 1 (Personal Attention).
7. Negative comments about video 2 (Trigger words).
8. Negative comments about video 3 (Object sounds – no talking).

What were the general results of your study?

Data Analysis

The general results of the study showed there was no difference in gender regarding the improvement of mood.

Results also indicated that ASMR stimuli have a positive effect on mood whether you usually watch ASMR or not.

In addition, the ASMR experience does not affect whether mood improves, meaning you do not have to experience the ‘tingles’ to benefit from the ASMR stimuli.

Furthermore, there was a significant relationship between ASMR experience and using ASMR stimuli to relieve symptoms of stress and using ASMR stimuli to relax.

There was no statistically significant difference in mood improvement for individuals who stated that they did not watch ASMR videos.

There was no statistically significant difference in mood improvement for individuals who said they did not experience ASMR whilst watching the ASMR video within the study.

There was no significance in mood change compared to ASMR trigger type, this is probably due to an individual’s subjective experience.

Content Analysis

Participants who stated they watch ASMR answered questions based on prior ASMR stimuli use, when asked ‘why do you watch ASMR stimuli’:
53.8% (N = 14) of individuals reported they watched it for relaxation
23.1% (N = 6) watched it to experience the ‘tingles’.

When asked ‘how do you feel after watching ASMR stimuli’:
65.4% (N = 17) of individuals said they feel relaxed
19.2% (N = 5) stated they felt sleepy.

Out of the individuals who stated that they must have a specific trigger to have the ASMR experience:
33.3% (N = 6) stated whispers
27.8% (N = 5) stated personal attention.

What do you think was the single most important finding?

I think that the most important finding is that whether participants stated that they watch ASMR stimuli or they did not watch ASMR stimuli there was an improvement in mood.

There was only a statistically significant difference in improved mood in participants that reported prior use of ASMR stimuli.

Therefore, the study provides provisional evidence that there are benefits from consuming ASMR stimuli on mood.

What was most interesting to you about doing this study?

The most interesting part of my study was discovering that my own experience of positive mood changes when using ASMR stimuli also happens for other people.

Looking at the data that had been collected and analysing the descriptive text was extremely interesting. One of the questions presented after participants watched the ASMR video asked, ‘what individuals did not like about the ASMR video’. Descriptive text from some participants who stated ‘no’ to watching ASMR stimuli commented they found the videos ‘creepy’, ‘uncomfortable’ and ‘weird’.

However, when looking at differences within the mood scale it showed that their mood improved. I found it extremely fascinating that even individuals who feel negatively towards the content of the ASMR videos, still benefited from improved mood.

Also, from the descriptive text, it is extremely apparent that individuals like and dislike several triggers, indicating that if individuals claim they do not like ASMR stimuli it may just be that they have not found the right triggers for them.

In addition to data collection, I found making two of the videos for the study myself fun. It was a wonderful insight into an ‘ASMRtists’ world. I felt a mixture of emotions, it was extremely fun, playing around with different sounds, creating scripts, and filming. However, at times it was also stressful in the aspect of recording and setting up technology. Having to wait till 2am to be able to record as not to have additional background noise. This enabled me to broaden my skill set.

What tips would you give to other students doing a research project on ASMR?

The tips I would give other students researching ASMR,

1. Prepare the materials you wish to use in advance (scales, questionnaires, videos) even if you chose not to use some of your choices nearer the time it is better to have everything ready. I started in the summer holidays before third year began, however, I did not make the videos until later in the year and due to complications with making the videos myself it caused a slight delay within the timescale of completing the task.

2. Watch different types of ASMR so you have a broader knowledge of trigger types.

3. Be clear with what you want and expect to find (your hypotheses) this will make data analysis less stressful.

4. Do lots of research early on, like reading published research studies on ASMR, this will help you see what has already been done as well as helping you make your research unique.

5. Make sure you know how to use the software you’re using to collect data (i.e. Qualtrics), a minor mistake can lead to a big impact. Due to not having the consent page so that participants could not move on to the next page unless they had checked all boxes may seem minor, however, I lost roughly half of my data collected from participants who only checked one box due to my mistake.

6. HAVE FUN, it may seem like a stressful piece of work, however, this is your research, and you have selected this topic area for a reason. Enjoy the process!

Learn more about Georgina Terzza: LinkedIn

Learn more about ASMR research:

  • Tips:  How to be an ASMR researcher.
  • Insight  Interviews with ASMR researchers.
  • Browse:  ASMR research and publications.

Learn more about ASMR:

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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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