Lacy is no cliché pageant mum. Lounging on the sofa with wet hair and a grey T-shirt emblazoned with a peace sign, she sits back, scrolling on her phone, to let her child speak candidly. She does not push Makenna to answer in a favourable way, nor is she pushing her daughter into stardom in pursuit of fame or riches. “She makes significantly more money than I do and works significantly less than I do,” laughs Lacy, sitting with her legs tucked underneath her on the large brown suede sofa in the middle of the family’s modest apartment. “She doesn’t have to babysit or dog-sit or anything, so it works out good.” Makenna smiles shyly, showing off pink braces. “I do want to babysit though! I like kids.”
But, as Wired UK reported, there's another side to the subculture: Kids as young as 5 years old are making their own ASMR videos — and making good money in the process. Wired spoke with 13-year-old Makenna Kelly, who makes ASMR videos for the 1.3 million subscribers to her "Life with MaK" channel. In some of her most viewed videos, Makenna eats instant ramen noodles and glides makeup brushes over a microphone.
There’s been suspicion that ASMR is a sexual pursuit, fueled by the fact that many ASMRtists are attractive young women and that cleavage is not exactly foreign to the medium. The comments beneath videos routinely make much of the ASMRtists’ attractiveness, and terms like “braingasms” and “whisper porn” are often bandied about. But in the Swansea study, only 5 percent of respondents reported using it for sexual stimulation. Granted, this is self-reported data, but the results must be vindicating to ASMRheads who find themselves battling unsavory rumors about their nighttime video-watching habits.
Austrian writer Clemens J. Setz suggests that a passage from the novel Mrs. Dalloway authored by Virginia Woolf and published in 1925, describes something distinctly comparable. In the passage from Mrs. Dalloway cited by Setz, a nursemaid speaks to the man who is her patient 'deeply, softly, like a mellow organ, but with a roughness in her voice like a grasshopper's, which rasped his spine deliciously and sent running up into his brain waves of sound'.
Yes. Mostly cognitive for me as well. I’ve experienced it hundreds of times while watching movies during particularly tender, deeply emotional, or intellectually stimulating scenes when the actors/narrators speak thoughts that resonate with me. I have also experienced this at church when someone reads scripture or teaches on a subject that suddenly triggers an “aha moment” for me; a feeling of revelation and connection to what I perceive is the spirit of God. Your comment was made a year ago, but I hope you read my response.
I am 69 female and have gotten a tingling in scalp in certain situations since I was a child. Just love it although it doesn't happen as often as when I was younger. Unfortunately, none of the videos did it for me and I don't ever remember seeing any youtube, etc that did it. Has to be real life. Someone comes to vacuum my office once a week. I get the tinglin feeling every time she's there. Of course, someone combing or styling my hair does it (more likely to happen if it's random and informal vs a haircut at the salon). Or someone giving me instructions and showing me how to do something (a simple, physical task) will trigger it. I try to hold onto it but it is so often too fleeting a sensation.
When she first felt it, she had no idea what it was. In kindergarten in central Russia, Maria and her friends would sometimes tickle each other gently, running their fingers over the skin of their forearms. For Maria, the experience was transcendent, sending a cascade of goosebumps over her head and down her back: “I would be left in a zombie-like state,” she says. “I would just be so relaxed.”
Bob Ross ALWAYS triggers this response (I have 15+ Joy of Painting episodes saved on my DVR right now). While all the other videos triggered my ASMR somewhat, the Rushka tea one had the most effect. I also like to watch people doing crafts (the sound of scissors cutting construction paper is amazing). Getting a massage or just watching someone get a massage (I can even read the description of spa treatments & have an ASMR response!) I love my hair to be played with too! As you probably know, the list can go on forever!!
On 12 March 2012, Steven Novella, Director of General Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, published a post about ASMR on his blog Neurologica. Regarding the question of whether ASMR is a real phenomeonon, Novella said "in this case, I don't think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is. There are a number of people who seem to have independently experienced and described" it with "fairly specific details. In this way it's similar to migraine headaches – we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history." Novella tentatively posited the possibilities that ASMR might be either a type of pleasurable seizure, or another way to activate the "pleasure response". However, Novella drew attention to the lack of scientific investigation into ASMR, suggesting that functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and transcranial magnetic stimulation technologies should be used to study the brains of people who experience ASMR in comparison to people who do not, as a way of beginning to seek scientific understanding and explanation of the phenomenon.
But it’s still a business, particularly for ASMRtists who hold to a strict programming schedule, solicit PayPal donations or offer one-on-one Skype sessions for a fee. Maria declined to specify her income but says that she holds a part-time administrative job and doesn’t earn enough from online ads to make a living off her videos alone — mainly because she doesn’t want her vlogging to become an obligatory burden. She’ll post a new video once per week or once per month, depending on how busy she is.
It now drives an entire industry on YouTube, where video artists rack up millions of views filming an array of audio and visual triggers for their viewers: They whisper, tap their fingers, flip through pages of a book, play with slime, slurp up noodles, make “mouth sounds” and even role-play scenarios like a spa visit or a doctor’s appointment — anything to evoke the sensation.
“We talked to her about how it’s good today but might be gone tomorrow,” Lacy says. With YouTube’s new, stricter regulations, child ASMRtists may be replaced by an as-yet-unknown breed of internet celebrity. Desireé Hunnicutt, for instance, is hoping that Aoki’s early start on YouTube will allow her to start a business. “I believe in Aoki figuring out what it is that she wants to do in life even early on and I hope it actually helps her,” she says.
There is little scientific research on the phenomenon—the first scientific paper on it was published on the open-access journal PeerJ in 2015. That study had nearly 500 people who subscribed to Facebook or Reddit ASMR groups fill out a questionnaire about their online ASMR habits and why they engaged in them. Most people said they watched the videos to help them relax, de-stress, and get to sleep. (Only five percent said they watch the videos for sexual reasons.)
If you want more ASMR-related videos, then hop on over to /r/ASMR on Reddit and join 165,000+ other users who also enjoy head tingles. If craftsmanship and meticulous work is one of your triggers, then be sure to check out our list of fascinating artisan videos 8 Fascinating Artisan Videos That Everyone Should Watch 8 Fascinating Artisan Videos That Everyone Should Watch Have you ever watched a masterful expert perform their work with such skill and passion that you had no choice but to watch and admire in awe? As I scour the Internet from day to... Read More .
I accidentally clicked on a youtube makeup review video not knowing what ASMR was. They were unboxing some beauty purchase and I thought they'd show the product but there was all this scratching awfulness. I downvote rarely but it was so deeply unpleasant. There were other videos with ASMR in the title and I clicked on a few - same thing. Spine-tingling, hair raising allright but for me it's so so unpleasant. Am I the only one? I literally feel pained by some of it! And the ones where the ladies whisper to be soothing I suppose but what's most salient to me are the lip smacking type of sounds that are just one step below someone eating slurpy and annoying. I hate hate hate the sounds of people's lip smacking type sounds as they speak. I was baffled that this ASMR was apparently a pleasurable thing for people based on there being channels devoted to it whereas I could tolerate only a few seconds of each, no more than 20-30 seconds that is if I forced myself to see if it turned into a better experience somehow. No no no... I feel at best mild disgust and at worst like someone is sending electric shocks through my spine. Then I looked it up and I see and "get" what it's supposed to be, but I just can't experience it as a positive thing and I can't expose myself to more of it as it's just subjectively awful for me! Am I alone? Are there people who hate this stuff? Perhaps this has to do with my sensory sensitivity? I have neuropathic pain, which messed up a lot of touch sensation for me so I thought maybe that is why. But thinking back, even before I got the neuropathy, I didn't like to be touched much, I would feel pain during massages that others seemed to enjoy, and for as long as I remember since childhood I had an area on my scalp down near the nape of my neck, that if touched directly (e.g., scalp massage) or indirectly (e.g., during haircuts) would send an unpleasant shiver down my back all the way to my pelvic bone in the back. I always tried to suppress reacting to these but would then avoid massages and would hold on to my chair when that area was stimulated during haircuts (and eventually started cutting my own hair). I have always hated smacking lip sounds - I can't eat if someone is eating loud and lose attention if someone is talking with lip sounds. I have sensory sensitivities such that I cannot stand fluorescent lights, and even incandescent bright lights and need to be in soft lighting. I also cannot tolerate noise or strong odors at all. So it would seem like I am the type of person who needs the soothing types of sensory experiences others seem to get from ASMR. I need soft, soothing sensory environment or else I have increased anxiety, tension and my chronic pain gets worse. I would seem like I would benefit from something like ASMR in theory, but paradoxically, everything I have tried to expose myself to so far that was called ASMR, I couldn't stop fast enough. They were not simply not pleasant but I found them clearly aversive - deeply uncomfortable and like nails on chalkboard awful in some cases. I have studied neuroscience, psychiatry and neurobiology, obtaining a PhD and have over a decade working in neuropsychology. Trying to guess why I am having no lu: nck with ASMR - in fact, having completely the opposite response! - I considered the following: I have autism in my family, mostly high functining but this is also often associated with sensory sensitivities. While I do not have ASD diagnosis, I score rather high on autism scales, mainly on sensory sensitivities and systemising approach dimensions (and not on social dimensions). I am very intrigued by this unexpectedly negative response I have to these and wondering if this is something that is also found and if so, what is known about it.
Seven years later, ASMR is having a pop culture moment—even if many of those who use it don’t know what the acronym stands for. The phenomenon’s most popular practitioners have more than half a million subscribers, and the doyenne of ASMRrtists, Maria of Gentle Whispering ASMR, has been so successful that she’s been able to quit her job to role-play soothing cosmetologists, librarians and flight attendants full-time. But what is ASMR? What function does it serve, who is drawn to it, and why? Or, as researcher Craig Richard puts it: “Why are millions of people watching someone fold a napkin?”
ASMR is described as a pleasurable tingling that begins in the head and scalp, shimmies down the spine and relaxes the entire body. Maria — she asked that her last name be withheld for safety reasons; her videos have sometimes attracted unwanted attention — experiences ASMR, and her YouTube channel, GentleWhispering, melds her personal tingle-triggers with others suggested by her fans. The resulting videos have drawn more than 87 million views, making Maria the premier celebrity of a controversial but increasingly recognized phenomenon.
To date, only one research paper has been published on the phenomenon. In March last year, Emma Barratt, a graduate student at Swansea University, and Dr Nick Davis, then a lecturer at the same institution, published the results of a survey of some 500 ASMR enthusiasts. “ASMR is interesting to me as a psychologist because it’s a bit ‘weird’” says Davis, now at Manchester Metropolitan University. “The sensations people describe are quite hard to describe, and that’s odd because people are usually quite good at describing bodily sensation. So we wanted to know if everybody’s ASMR experience is the same, and of people tend to be triggered by the same sorts of things.”
Richard suggests that the “extreme relaxation” of ASMR may be the mirror image of panic attacks, residing at the far end of the relaxation spectrum. If, as his data so far shows, three-quarters of his subjects use ASMR videos to help them sleep, a third say the videos help them “feel less sad,” and smaller percentages use the videos to deal with diagnosed anxiety disorders and depression, ASMR could one day have therapeutic applications, he argues.
Imaging subjects' brains with fMRI as they reported experiencing ASMR tingles suggests support for this hypothesis, because brain areas such as the medial prefrontal cortex (associated with social behaviors including grooming), and the secondary somatosensory cortex (associated with sensation of touch) were activated more strongly during tingle periods than control periods.