What is ASMR?

Overview

Have you ever felt tingles in your head and deeply relaxed while getting a haircut, listening to someone turn magazine pages, 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 the soothing and comforting feeling of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

ASMR is becoming increasingly popular around the world and with celebrities.  A driving reason is that it seems to be very helpful for reducing stress and falling asleep.

A common way to experience ASMR is to watch ASMR videos or to listen to ASMR podcasts.  These recordings are either a direct recording of real life situations which trigger ASMR, or are simulations of the voices, sounds, behaviors, and moments in real life which tend to trigger ASMR.

Learn more about solitary ASMR vs partner ASMR HERE.

What does ASMR feel like?

The ASMR sensations can be categorized into:

  • Physical sensations (what you feel):  light and pleasurable tingles, sparkles, fuzziness, or waves of relaxation in the head, neck, spine, and throughout the rest of the body.
  • Psychological sensations (how you feel): deep and soothing feelings of relaxation, calmness, comfort, peacefulness, restfulness, or sleepiness.

What stimulates ASMR?

In short, ASMR is stimulated during moments of positive, personal attention (the Context) coupled with a gentle voice, touch, sound, and/or movement (the Triggers).

Context sets the stage for experiencing ASMR.  You are most likely to experience ASMR when a helpful and kind person is giving you calm, focused attention.  This kind person may be a clinician, teacher, hairdresser, parent, best friend, partner, or even someone you just met.  The key aspects of this interaction are that you trust this person, feel safe, and they are doing something helpful or interesting.

Triggers are the specific stimuli that occur during  this interaction.  These triggers can be the other person’s voice, the sounds they create, their touch, or the way they move their hands.  The most important aspect of these triggers is that they are gentle and non-threatening, in other words, they are speaking softly, creating low volume sounds, touching you lightly and appropriately, and moving their hands smoothly, slowly, and predictably.

Trigger categories & examples:

  • Tactile/Felt: Lightly touching someone’s hair, hand, arm, or back.  This can occur unintentionally with a hairdresser or clinician, or intentionally with a friend, family member, or partner.
  • Auditory/Heard: The low volume sounds of someone’s voice, their fingers touching something, or the sounds of the item they are touching.  Popular sounds include whispering, gentle speech, tapping, crinkling, scratching, and brushing.
  • Visual/Observed: Seeing someone’s gentle movements and kind facial expressions.  Examples include someone gazing at you in a caring way, as well as, watching someone’s hands unbox an item, poke at slime, cut soap, play with kinetic sand, solve a Rubik’s cube, draw a picture, or create a painting (Hello Bob Ross).

Why is ASMR relaxing?

When the Context and Triggers are appropriate (see details above), you feel deeply relaxed because your brain is saying to you, “This person isn’t making any threatening sounds or movements and they are doing something helpful or interesting.  I think I’ll chill out with them rather than run away, and this may even be a safe time to fall asleep.”

You can read more about some biological and evolutionary theories about ASMR HERE (includes the potential brain chemicals involved and the benefit of ASMR for survival and relationships).

Intentional vs Unintentional ASMR:

The individuals who purposely want to stimulate ASMR in others are called ASMR artists (AKA ASMRtists, ASMR practitioners, or ASMR content creators) and their productions are called “intentional ASMR”.  The most common examples are YouTube video artists, but ASMR artists can also include composers, poets, dancers, and more.

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.

The evidence for the potential benefit of ASMR for stress disorders, sleep disorders, mood disorders and more is slowly growing – read more HERE.

Unfortunately, there is still a lot to learn about the physiology of ASMR and the true effectiveness of ASMR for medical disorders.  That is why the mission of this website is to promote the awareness, understanding, and research of ASMR.

Learn more about ASMR:

Contribute to the Understanding of ASMR:

For the complete list of ASMR topics on this website:

Prefer to snuggle up with a book or ebook to learn about ASMR?

Brain Tingles” the How-To Guide by Dr. Craig Richard

Learn all about ASMR and how to stimulate  that blissful feeling in those around you – with your gentle voice, light touch, hypnotic actions, and caring behaviors.

Lull a child to sleep, soothe a stressed family member, relax a friend or romantic partner, create ASMR videos, or add it as a relaxation technique to your spa, health studio, wellness center, or counseling sessions.

This book will help you to understand and apply the techniques, tools, and secrets for every ASMR trigger type, along with hundreds of examples.

Available on Amazon, or learn more HERE.

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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27 thoughts on “What is ASMR?

  1. Pingback: ASMR Gaming Whisper: Stardew Valley Pt. 2 – Gone Fishing! | Fishing Shop

  2. Pingback: Votre ami… le sommeil – La Gazette du Malin-Firmier

  3. 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.

    Like

  4. 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….

    Like

  5. 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.

    Liked by 1 person

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