This is Maria, a 28-year-old Russian expat in suburban Maryland, starring in a YouTube video that has been viewed more than 7 million times. Hundreds of thousands of Maria’s devotees return again and again to listen to her hushed whispers as she assumes simulated roles — librarian, hairstylist, masseuse — and performs simple motions: folding towels, blowing smoke from an incense burner, flipping through the pages of a magazine.
“The strongest type of tingle…feels like sparkles or little fireworks going off,” she says. “The strongest one would give you the feeling of being exhausted, pleasantly tired, satisfied almost you want to say. Then there are much less strong tingles, and they feel just pleasant. Almost like sand is being poured down your spine. [Or] like when you get the funny elbow, when you hit it and it feels like it just goes off everywhere.”
Listening to a binaural recording through headphones simulates the binaural hearing by which people listen to live sounds. For the listener, this experience is characterised by two perceptions. Firstly, the listener perceives being in close proximity to the performers and location of the sound source. Secondly, the listener perceives what is often reported as a three-dimensional sound. This means the listener can perceive both the position and distance of the source of sound relative to them.
I would spend all Friday, Saturday drawing outlines with my 3 best friends, discussing art, colour and symmetry for hours, then spend all Saturday night bombing trains, painting together would activate it intensely, in the dark, spooky and exhilarating all at the same time, while four kids spent their weekends silently breaking the law to paint Top-to-Bottom Wholecars just for art’s sake)
I wonder if I have this ASMR thing too. The only thing that I don’t have in common like the rest, is audio. I only get this feeling, this “head-orgasm feeling,” when someone or something touches, like a kitten’s whiskers, a feather or someone’s hand, the side of my temples or near my ears. This feeling is very difficult to describe. When this happens I automatically close my eyes, I smile involuntarily and I get this tingling sensation all over my head. It’s a really good feeling too. Also, I’m not sure if it goes through the rest of my body like the rest of you, because I guess I’m feeling this sensation and I’m unaware of it. I remember when I was little I would get this feeling when I would play with a cat and they would head-bud my face and this feeling happened. I wasn’t sure what it was and was afraid that someone would see me making my face doing the “involuntarily closing my eyes and smiling” thing. So, I try to snap out of it as fast as I could… my question is, is this the same thing? Do I have ASMR?
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.
ASMR seems to need an emotional component to it, and Winter says that’s not accidental. “Some things may remind you of your mother or being a kid,” he says. “I’d guess that it’s no accident that a lot of the videos of someone whispering feature an attractive woman, which make you think of your mom whispering to you when you went to sleep.” Those memories the videos evoke are likely comforting, and can shift people into a more relaxed state that then helps them fall asleep, he says.
The pennies from the jar were spread flat between us on the concrete. With each penny my uncle helped me count, he would say the numbers out loud and gently slide the penny across the concrete to the “counted” pile with his thick index finger. My uncle was a giant of a man: 6-foot-4 and almost 400 pounds, with a naturally gruff voice. He was also a diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic, and because of his condition and the medication he took to treat it, he spoke slowly, stretching out most words in deep, gentle tones.
Same. I tend to do round scratches with my hand at the top of the head crown to intensify the tingles. And like one dude (https://www.reddit.com/r/asmr/comments/3lrmyx/question_what_exactly_is_the_brain_orgasm_of_asmr/), my toes curl and eyes roll up. Rubbing hands, palms and inner wrist to be exact, against something or against each other. Same with feet.
Binaural recordings are made specifically to be heard through headphones rather than loudspeakers. When listening to sound through loudspeakers, the left and right ear can both hear the sound coming from both speakers. By distinction, when listening to sound through headphones, the sound from the left earpiece is audible only to the left ear, and the sound from the right ear piece is audible only to the right ear. When producing binaural media, the sound source is recorded by two separate microphones, placed at a distance comparable to that between two ears, and they are not mixed, but remain separate on the final medium, whether video or audio.
There's a natural flow, an underlying world current, and you can by various practices connect with that flow, then even though not everything will turn out perfect, the important events will line up for you. It's about expansion, not concentration or focus, but relaxation and encompassing more, without suffocating anyone with your current superstitions and beliefs (they will change also).
However, Tony Ro, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the City University of New York Graduate Center, said in an email that the University of Winnipeg study “is unfortunately not as revealing or informative as it could have been,” given its small size and the fact that researchers were measuring subjects at rest, rather than while experiencing ASMR. The resting state differences could be due to other factors, like higher rates of anxiety or depression, he says. Still, writes Ro, who researches synesthesia and has also been intrigued by ASMR for a few years, “I do think that ASMR may be a form of synesthesia.”
The term ASMR was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen, a 39-year-old penetration tester. “For years I thought, ‘Jeez, maybe I have a brain tumour or something,’” she recalls. From 1999 onwards, Allen searched steadfastly for others like her online. In the late noughties, she stumbled upon a SteadyHealth.com forum in which a user named okaywhatever51838 discussed a “weird sensation” that “feels good”.
I’ve been experiencing ASMR since childhood, although Its only been about 6 months since I discovered that other people experience this same feeling. I have never really been able to “conjure” the tingles, they just come when they come. I have identified my triggers to be more of the one on one human interaction variety. Here’s my question: since discovering the ASMR community I have tried watching several different types of YouTuber’s (men, women, different styles, topics, etc.) but the videos (although they can be nice and relaxing) never make me feel the same as “the real thing.” Does anyone else find his to be the case? Have you discovered any way around it if so?
It can often just start with a softly breathed “hellohellohello.” By now, if you’ve got a favourite genre of ASMR content, you probably know what it is. I still have to google what ASMR stands for (Autonomous sensory meridian response—why can I never remember this?) but spend about half of my working day listening to Korean women or Spanish men whispering and tapping cardboard boxes anyway. Look, it helps me concentrate. These are the basics: ASMR makes your body and brain tingle, in a way that is not sexual and not weird. It’s sort of like a massage coming from inside your head, through sound. Those sounds can be anything from light stroking (shout out to Tenaqui using acrylic nails on an eyeshadow palette), to brushing straight fine hair, crunching on fried chicken skin, whispering about crystals, literally saying “sksksk” and rubbing your fingers together real fast like you’re trying to get rid of stray cat hairs.
The majority of the ASMR community online is focused on ASMR videos. These are videos which are designed specifically for triggering people’s ASMR. They are often very relaxing, even if they don’t trigger your ASMR reaction. Most of the videos you will easily find on You Tube are what is called intentional ASMR videos, but there are also unintentional videos. Unintentional videos are videos that were originally made for another purpose but just happen to provide ASMR triggers for some people. Many ASMR video creators are expert at creating guided meditations, however production values vary greatly from video shot from iPhone cameras to complete 3D sounds and special effects.
Even so, because she’s a woman who puts her face on the Internet, Maria does get some unsavory comments sometimes. But she also gets thankful, heartfelt messages from people who’ve found some comfort in her videos. She told me she keeps a folder called “Gratitude” on her computer filled with these messages, that she reads before she makes her videos.
I spoke to Dr Emma Blakey, Giulia Poerio, Tom Hostler and Theresa Veltri, who as graduate students at the University of Sheffield, are part of the new generation of ASMR researchers trying to do just that. They’re currently working on a study that will aim to see whether people who subjectively report the experience of ASMR also produce consistent physiological measures – for example, changes in heart rate, breathing rate, or skin conductance.
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!
In August 2014, Craig Richard, Jennifer Allen, and Karissa Burnett published a survey at SurveyMonkey that was reviewed by Shenandoah University Institutional Review Board, and the Fuller Theological Seminary School of Psychology Human Studies Review Committee. In September 2015, when the survey had received 13,000 responses, the publishers announced that they were analyzing the data with the intent to publish the results. Currently they have had over 25,000 responses, data analysis is in progress but the survey remains open and active for continued data collection. No such publication or report is yet available.
For outsiders, ASMR has always been weird. “One thing that’s interesting about the ASMR experience is that it’s about close personal attention,” says Giulia Poerio, a psychology professor at the University of Sheffield who has undertaken multiple ASMR studies. Role-play videos thrive in the ASMR community – online, you can watch someone pretend to be your dentist, masseuse, or even a receptionist checking you into a hotel. “They’re basically a simulation of what would happen if you got ASMR in real life,” Poerio explains. “Multiple triggers are layered to get an effect.”
Some ASMR video creators use binaural recording techniques to simulate the acoustics of a three-dimensional environment, reported to elicit in viewers and listeners the experience of being in close proximity to actor and vocalist. Binaural recordings are usually made using two microphones, just like stereo recordings. However, in binaural recordings the two microphones tend to be more specially designed to mimic ears on humans. In many cases, microphones are separated the same distance as ears are on humans, and microphones are surrounded by ear-shaped cups to get similar reverb as human ears.