What is ASMR?

Have you ever felt deeply relaxed or soothed 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 can be simply described as a narrow range of physiological responses to a wide variety of stimuli.

The responses and stimuli of ASMR can be classified as follows:

  1. The response usually includes:
    • 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.
  2. The most common types of stimuli are:
    • Visual (seen)
    • Auditory (heard)
    • Tactile (felt)
  3. The exposure to the stimuli can be:
    • Real (eg, an actual person is next to you talking softly)
    • Electronic (eg, video or audio recording of a soft voice)
  4. There may also be no obvious stimuli, and ASMR may occur via:
    • Imagining or thinking about an ASMR stimulus
    • Meditating or using relaxation techniques
    • Spontaneous occurrences (stimulus absent or unclear)

The stimuli for these responses (often called “triggers”) include the following categories and examples:

  • Tactile stimuli: light touch, massage, hair touching, grooming, physical examination
  • Visual stimuli: eye gazing, slow hand movements
  • Auditory stimuli:
    • Vocal: soft, whispering, slow, gentle, increased pitch, caring, monotone
    • Oral: mouth sounds, chewing, blowing
    • Objects: tapping, scratching, cutting, crinkling, stroking, handling
      • The material of the objects are varied and common examples are plastic, paper, wood, cardboard, ceramic, fabric, and hair.

The stimuli usually have one or more of the following traits:

  • ASMR stimuli traits: repetitive, methodical, steady pace, steady volume, non-threatening

The individuals that purposely create these stimuli are called ASMR artists.  Triggers created accidentally by individuals are called “unintentional ASMR”.  All of these individuals tend to have the following dispositions:

  • ASMR dispositions: kind, caring, empathic, attentive, focused, trustworthy, dedicated, expert

Some of the strongest triggers for ASMR are scenarios which include a mix of stimuli types and involve someone with an ASMR disposition.  If the scenarios are created on purpose to stimulate ASMR then they are called “ASMR role-plays”.

  • ASMR scenarios: instructional demonstrations, methodical task completion, personal attention, focused activities, and consultations.  These scenarios may involve the person as a participant or as an observer.
    • Examples: spa treatments, cranial nerve exams, hair salon visits, origami paper folding, unboxings, magazine page-turning, and soft spoken men painting methodically on canvas.

Stimuli and responses can differ greatly between individuals, but overall ASMR is a deeply relaxing state initiated by a wide variety of triggers.

If you have ever been in a situation that you found amazingly calming or relaxing, like getting a massage, getting a haircut, or listening to a soothing voice – and you just wanted to close your eyes and enjoy it for an extended amount of time – then you have probably experienced 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.

To learn more about this website, click “About ASMR University”

To learn more about the founder of this website, click “About Dr. Richard”

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10 thoughts on “What is ASMR?

  1. Pingback: What is ASMR? Pt. II – vehemenceandemergence

  2. 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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  3. 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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  4. Pingback: ASMR -Tapping for tingles – Head orgasms? – The Anxious Hippie MKE

  5. Pingback: What is ASMR? | New Literacy Research Portfolio

  6. 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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  7. 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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  8. 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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