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.
I’m totally with you in similarity on that. I can get it from reading or watching something profound, and also being engaged in a deep connection with someone. I believe ASMR is the main reason why I used to believe in, and what I used to describe as, my third eye. Like Carlos Cruz, I also get the sensation from music, actually having been utterly attached my whole life to gaining these feelings from listening to music.
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.)
It turns out I had experienced my first incident of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), though I would not find that out until earlier this year when I researched hypnosis videos on YouTube that supposedly help you sleep better. ASMR isn’t a phenomenon confirmed by science, and it’s only in recent years, after people across the world began to report their ASMR experiences on the web, that scientists have even started to study it.
“There needs to be a careful balance between skepticism and open-mindedness when investigating ASMR,” the Sheffield group say. “There is also of course the danger that ASMR videos get picked up by people who might try and use them to market pseudoscience or mental health benefits (without the evidence to support it), and inadvertently spread misinformation about it, which would of course damage the reputation of any genuine research going on,” they add. We’ve already started to see cases of this – just this week, in an interview with the Daily Mail, ASMR video producer Lauren Ostrowksi Fenton claimed that the sensation is produced by oxytocin, which she refers to as “the cuddle hormone, the hugging hormone, or the feel-good hormone”. Besides the fact that there’s simply no evidence that oxytocin is responsible for the sensation, the science behind the claim that oxytocin is a “hug hormone” is itself extremely weak.
“Our research studies consistently show that ASMR is a relaxing, calming sensation that increases feelings of social connectedness,” Giulia Poerio (a co-author of the study), told Newsweek. “Importantly, we found that ASMR videos produce significant reductions in heart rate in people who experience ASMR. So we now have more objective evidence of the idea that ASMR is relaxing. It’s not just people telling us that ASMR makes them feel relaxed—their physiology is telling us the same thing too.”
“The reason people can get tingles and feel relaxed and comforted listening to Maria GentleWhispering is because she’s acting very much the way a parent would care for you,” he says, “with the caring glances, gentle speech and soothing hand movements. And a lot of the time she’s doing simulated touching. It’s pattern recognition. Our brains recognize the pattern of someone with a caring glance, someone with a gentle whisper, and we find that comforting.”
She made her first ASMR video in February 2011, filming herself as she leafed through a journal and played with seashells. The video logged just two views in a month, and Maria was so disappointed that she deleted it. A few months later, she tried again; this time, there were a few encouraging comments. She kept at it, and by the end of the year, she had 30,000 subscribers. Nearly three years later, she has more than 300,000.
I attribute it to my son in spirit being present. It didn’t happen to me until after he died. I can’t control it and comes at random times, I’m not able to pinpoint it. It comes in every quadrant of my head at various times of the day and some day’s only a few times. Lately it’s often and much stronger. I thought perhaps because we are within several weeks of first anniversary of his death.
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.”
She has invested in her craft, upgrading to top-notch binaural microphones that carry every exhale into a listener’s ears as if Maria is standing beside them. Her videos, like most ASMR recordings, are undeniably intimate. But the intended response — although often described as “brain orgasms” — is not sexual, ASMR enthusiasts insist. (Unsurprisingly, a few of the creepier online comments insist otherwise.)
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 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.
I have been experiencing ASMR right from my childhood on many occasions, notably when I get personal attention, for example when a tailor takes the measurements. I do experience ASMR during hair cuts but to a lesser degree. The intensity is more when I get my moustache trimmed, a final ritual of my hair cut. It might sound weird to you, but I am trying to explain iin detail so that you get a better understanding of ASMR for different people.
“We found that people who experience ASMR showed significant reductions in their heart rates compared to non-ASMR participants,” Poerio explains, “These reductions are comparable to other stress-reduction techniques such as mindfulness and music therapy.” Poerio says this finding is crucial because reduced heart rates prove people who enjoy ASMR are not sexually aroused.
One part of that forage into “Deep Baby Brain” involves introducing you to ‘YouTuber’ CuteKid4950, and his tub of Strange Creatures goo. He starts off with the usual setup, doing his piece to camera before getting out the gunk. But then… things get weird. “Expanding upon the YouTube infotainment vlog format,” Drenge said, “CuteKid4950 takes us from kitchen to basement to warehouse to cave and emerges unscathed and enlightened. We can see the time and space properties of the real world crumble into insignificance. Unusual patterns emerge. Colours and shapes of forgotten solar systems reveal themselves amid the paint and the goo. This is more than something to keep you lightly amused. People will tell you that you are mad. They will try to denounce you. Ignore them. Let history be the judge.”
I get this response, but I don't always like the feeling. If someone pulls down a projector screen, like those found in classrooms, i get a tingling sensation all over my body but I don't associate it with a pleasurable feeling. It's almost like nails on a chalkboard. I feel the same way about listening to a violin. The whispering though is a pleasurable ASMR response for me.
“For me, something about when kids whisper, it’s, oh my god, it’s so relaxing,” says Desireé Hunnicutt, Aoki’s mother, who started watching ASMR videos in 2011. Hunnicutt says she was motivated to create the AMSR Toddler channel in order to help people. “I see comments where people are like, ‘Oh my goodness, I watch every night and it helps me fall asleep,’” she says. “To me that’s perfect, that’s what we’re trying to do.”
YouTube pays on average $2 per 1,000 views if you run ads on your videos, but there are many other factors involved in payment. For example, not all clips have commercials on them and different genres on YouTube have different payouts, depending on popularity. Maria says she doesn't think she could sustain a family with her ASMR videos, while Paul, who does have a wife and child, points out that a YouTube career doesn't cover additional costs like health benefits.
But it’s hard to follow hype. And though critics also loved Drenge’s 2015 followup, Undertow, they seemed to fall off my radar for a moment. In current music terms, four years is a long time away—which, of course, is hilarious, especially considering how much of that time they spent pouring their energy into touring. On Strange Creatures they’re more prone to flattening the reverby, more spaced-out vocals of Undertow, kicking the urgency back into their work. Now, their voices cut through more directly on tracks like opener “Bonfire for the City Boys” and as-yet unreleased track “Teenage Love.” They’re sounding both experimental and limbered up, ready to experiment—making a fake ASMR video shows, if nothing else, their playful streak.
As a penny slid across the concrete porch, it made a pleasant grating sound that, when combined with my uncle’s voice, produced the oddest sensations in me. I felt a “fuzzy” warm sensation inside my skull, as if my brain was floating in a container of heated seltzer water. As my uncle continued to count and slide the pennies, the warm feeling began to extend down my spine and arms. Soon, my entire upper body was cocooned in this warmth and tingling, and I could have listened to my uncle slowly count the pennies for the rest of my life. It was, and remains to this day, one of the most euphoric sensations I have ever experienced.
The study asked a range of questions about where, when and why people watch ASMR videos, whether there was any consistency in ASMR-triggering content, as well as whether individuals felt it had any effect on their mood. There was a remarkable consistency across participants in terms of triggering content – whispering worked for the majority of people, followed by videos involving some sort of personal attention, crisp sounds, and slow movements. For the most part, participants reported that they watched ASMR videos for relaxation purposes, or to help them sleep or deal with stress. Only 5% of participants reported that they used ASMR media for sexual stimulation, which is counter to a common perception of the videos found online. “There are a lot of people who latch onto some ASMR videos involving attractive women and dismiss what we found to be a very nuanced activity as exclusively sexual. Our findings will hopefully dispel that idea,” explains Barratt. “The fact that a huge number of people are triggered by whispering voices suggests that the sensation is related to being intimate with someone in a non-sexual way. Very few people reported a sexual motivation for ASMR, it really is about feeling relaxed or vulnerable with another person,” adds Davis.
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.
Nothing can currently be definitively known about any evolutionary origins for ASMR since the perceptual phenomenon itself has yet to be clearly identified as having biological correlations. Even so, a significant majority of descriptions of ASMR by those who experience it compare the sensation to that precipitated by receipt of tender physical touch, providing examples such as having their hair cut or combed. This has led to the conjecture that ASMR might be related to the act of grooming.