Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response or ASMR is a term used to describe the, “pleasurable tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to visual, auditory, olfactory, and/or cognitive stimuli.” This phenomenon is also referred to as AIE (Attention induced euphoria), or simply “head tingles.” There is very little scientific research to explain this sensation and it is not experienced by everyone. This aside, sizable communities have gathered on websites such as Youtube and Reddit to discuss and share material related to the phenomenon. A good example of a video created to trigger an ASMR response can be found Here (headphones recommended.)
Those who have experienced ASMR generally describe it as a, “relaxing and pleasurable sensation.” Common stimulus for ASMR include:
- Slow speech patterns
- Soft speaking or whispering voices
- Lip sounds, smacking
- Clicking or brushing sounds
- Instructional videos, watching others preform simple tasks
- Close, personal attention
- Haircuts, someone playing with your hair
For those who experience ASMR, the stimulus or, “triggers,” vary from person to person. Many videos can be find on websites such as Youtube in which the creator uses one or more of these stimuli to attempt to trigger the ASMR of those watching. Even those who have reported being unable to experience ASMR seek these videos for their relaxing properties. Although there is no scientific evidence behind the benefits of ASMR, many have reported watching or listening to ASMR related content to help with problems such as insomnia, anxiety, or panic attacks.
The lack of scientific research behind ASMR is likely due to it’s inert difficulty to research and measure. Professor Tom Stafford, an expert in psychology and cognitive sciences states, “It might well be a real thing, but it’s inherently difficult to research. The inner experience is the point of a lot of psychological investigation, but when you’ve got something like this that you can’t see or feel, and it doesn’t happen for everyone, it falls into a blind spot. It’s like synaesthesia – for years it was a myth, then in the 1990s people came up with a reliable way of measuring it.”
Due to the fact that not not everyone experiences ASMR, and that even for those who do, there is no single stimuli that will trigger it for everyone, researching the phenomenon becomes a daunting task. Despite the difficulties, the large amount of interest behind the science of ASMR has began to catch the attention of scientists and medical professionals, and initial experiments have been undertaken (through the use of MRI.)
ASMR is not to be confused with the sensation of “chills” or “goosebumps” one receives when listening to music or watching a particularly powerful scene in a movie. This sensation is called frisson, or “cold chills.”
Click Here for more information on ASMR.