What is ASMR?

Have you ever felt tingles in your head and deeply relaxed while getting a massage, while getting a haircut, while listening to someone turn magazine pages, while listening to a specific person talk in a gentle manner, or while watching Bob Ross create a painting?

If so, then you have probably experienced Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR.

ASMR is becoming increasingly popular because it seems to be very helpful for reducing stress and falling asleep.

ASMR can be simply described simply as a variety of soothing SENSATIONS (eg, tingles, relaxation, calmness, sleepiness) due to a variety of gentle STIMULI (eg, whispering, soft talking, light touches, methodical sounds).

The ASMR sensations can be categorized into:

  • Physical sensations:  tingles, chills, and/or waves in the head, neck, spine, and throughout the rest of the body.
  • Psychological sensations: good feelings of euphoria, happiness, comfort, calmness, peacefulness, relaxation, restfulness, and/or sleepiness.

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What does ASMR feel like for you?

Hear 20+ testimonials in episode #13 of The ASMR University podcast.

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The ASMR stimuli (often called “ASMR triggers”) can be categorized into:

  • Externally initiated (AKA, Type B ASMR):
    • Direct stimulus (eg, soft voice of someone next to you)
    • Live transmission (eg, soft voice via phone or live stream)
    • Recorded transmission (eg, soft voice via video or audio file)
  • Internally initiated or spontaneous (AKA, Type A ASMR):
    • Imagining or thinking about an ASMR stimulus
    • Meditating or using relaxation techniques
    • Spontaneous occurrences (stimulus absent or unclear)

Externally initiated ASMR stimuli/triggers can be:

  • Tactile (felt): light touch, massage, hair touching, grooming, physical examination
  • Visual (seen): eye contact, observing hand movements
  • Auditory (heard):
    • Spoken sounds: soft, whispering, slow, gentle, increased pitch, caring, monotone
    • Oral sounds: mouth sounds, chewing sounds, blowing sounds
    • Object sounds: tapping, scratching, cutting, crinkling, stroking, handling of objects

Common traits of ASMR stimuli/triggers:

Although there is a huge variety of ASMR stimuli/triggers, they generally tend to be repetitive, methodical, gentle, at a steady pace, and at low and/or steady volume.

The common theme to ASMR triggers is that they possess the universal patterns of non-threatening stimuli.  This may be the key to their ability to induce relaxation.

Intentional vs Unintentional ASMR:

The individuals who purposely create these stimuli are called ASMR artists (AKA ASMRtists, content creators) and their productions are called “intentional ASMR”.  The most common examples are YouTube video artists.

Stimuli/triggers created accidentally by individuals are called “unintentional ASMR”.   Examples include Bob Ross, teachers, hairdressers, clinicians, unboxing videos, and expert demonstrations.

Individuals who intentionally or unintentionally elicit ASMR in others tend to have the following dispositions: kind, caring, empathic, attentive, focused, trustworthy, dedicated, expert, and a calm vocal tone.

ASMR scenarios and role-plays:

Some of the strongest triggers for ASMR are “scenarios” which include a mix of stimuli/trigger types and involve someone with an ASMR disposition.  For example, watching Bob Ross paint includes a mix of audio triggers (gentle tapping sounds), visual triggers (methodical and expert hand movements), and Bob Ross’s gentle disposition.

If the scenarios are created on purpose to stimulate ASMR then they are called “ASMR role-plays”.  These are commonly performed by ASMR artists on YouTube.

General ASMR scenarios include: instructional demonstrations, methodical task completion, personal attention, focused activities, and consultations.  These scenarios may involve the person as a participant or as an observer.

Specific ASMR scenarios include: spa treatments, cranial nerve exams, hair salon visits, origami paper folding, unboxings, magazine page-turning, and soft spoken men painting methodically on canvas.

The benefits of ASMR:

Internet videos of individuals purposely simulating real-life ASMR triggers have grown widely popular in the last few years.  Viewers find many of these videos as relaxing as real-life ASMR triggers and quite helpful for falling asleep, de-stressing, and providing comfort during a sad time.

Some individuals with clinical diagnoses of medical disorders report that these videos are helpful to their insomnia, anxiety, panic disorders and/or depression.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot known about the physiology of ASMR or the true effectiveness of ASMR for medical disorders.  And that is why the mission of this website is to promote the awareness, understanding, and research of ASMR.

Learn more about ASMR:

  • History: when and how did the world discover ASMR?
  • Origin Theory: why and how do people experience ASMR?
  • Science: what has research discovered about ASMR?
  • Art: how do artists express ASMR?
  • Testimonials: how do others describe their ASMR?

Contribute to the Understanding of ASMR:

For the complete list of ASMR topics on this website:

Website mission: to increase the awareness, understanding, and research of the Art and Science of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. (How to cite)

Website founder: Dr. Richard (AboutContact)

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32 thoughts on “What is ASMR?

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  3. I first discovered my tingles when I was about 7 years old while watching the original (in my opinion un-intentional) ASMRtist Bob Ross in “The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross.” I would stop playing with whatever and whomever just to run and sit in front of the television when his show came on PBS. My mother once suggested trying to actually paint with him, and to her surprise I declined. No interest in actually painting, mom! Just the man’s voice! LOL.

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  8. I always thought I was weird for liking when someone chewed their food in libraries or I would fall asleep to my dog chewing on a solo cup. I would feel all relaxed and fuzzy. it has a name now and I don’t feel weird anymore.

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  19. Muted vacuum cleaner noise from a distance. I first experienced this soothing/tingly sensation when I was sick with chicken pox as a very young child. Now, when the very long hallway in my condo is being vacuumed, I get the same response. I remember the same pleasant relaxation when watching or listening to people performing a variety of activities. Didn’t know there was a name for it or that others have the same experience. Never questioned it–just enjoyed it. Right now there are leaf blowers outside, and they are simply too loud to be anything except annoying.

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  22. Never knew it even had a name. Have always had it, but lately, after developing a brain tumor, it became so intense and sensitive, so that any trigger would send me into non-ending shivers….

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  23. Recuerdo haber tenido esas sensaciones desde pequeña y las disfrutaba (y disfruto) mucho pero no sé por qué pensaba que todo el mundo tenía esa experiencia. Ha sido impactante para mí descubrir todo esto.

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  26. I’ve had this my whole life. I was ecstatic to find there was a name for it and other people that might understand it! I love it but it also bothers me when I can’t stay awake in a library or even a store sometimes if there is a trigger sound near me. I have slept through much of school and fallen asleep on the job (usually during breaks) from work environment sounds since my first job. I keep reading about the great side of ASMR but there is also this annoying one. I probably wouldn’t trade it in though!

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  27. Wow, this actually has a name!! I’ve been experiencing this every since I was a little girl – I respond to all three triggers. I always wondered what this was and it just never occurred to me that other people might be experiencing what I did (in particular, the auditory and visual triggers). These experiences are so unbelievably pleasant and ultra-relaxing. Trance-like, out-of-body even…I just go to another place. I have a vague recollection of trying to describe what I was feeling to friends throughout my childhood and just beyond and they had no idea what I was talking about/looked at me like I was a little out there. So I’ve considered it a uniquely personal experience up until now. Very cool! I’ve got some research to do and some amazing relaxing videos to watch.

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  28. I’ve had head tingles for years, most commonly when sitting with sunshine hitting my back. But sometimes when there is no sunshine – so I’m going to have to start paying attention to possible auditory triggers. Neat!

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