It’s been described as a “brain massage”, and people all over the world watch similar videos – usually someone seeming to give you their undivided attention – to de-stress or drift off to sleep of an evening. Experts explain that it’s about feelings of intimacy and empathy. If you think this sounds like a weird sex thing – no, as it happens, this isn’t a weird sex thing, though the phenomena has been nicknamed a “brain orgasm”. In 2015, a study found that 98 percent of ASMR-loving respondents use the videos to simply relax, while for 70 percent it was stress relief. Only 5 percent said it’s about sexual stimulation (for those people, may we recommend the very whispery ‘Je T’aime Moi Non Plus’ from Jane Birkin and Serge Gainboroug…). There are plenty of songs, too, with evocative sounds – brittle beats, tongue clicks and more – that’ll appeal to those who experience ASMR.
The contemporary history of ASMR began on 19 October 2007 on a discussion forum for health-related subjects at a website called Steady Health. A 21-year-old registered user with the handle "okaywhatever" submitted a post describing having experienced a specific sensation since childhood, comparable to that stimulated by tracing fingers along the skin, yet often triggered by seemingly random and unrelated non-haptic events, such as "watching a puppet show" or "being read a story".
Just curious if I’m alone in this– I don’t get ASMR from physical sounds or sensations, but I get it VERY strong from certain songs or concepts that have emotional impact, or from having an understanding of some sensory experience (such as a song) that I didn’t before. It doesn’t matter whether the emotion means anything to me, personally, but if the singer sounds like they mean it it’s a trigger.
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.)
Let me start from my personal experience. As a schoolboy, I had a particular French teacher whose voice would put me into a trance. As soon as she started talking, it felt like my brain would start tingling. Her measured cadence and accent felt almost like some sort of mind massage. It was incredibly relaxing – and felt amazing, almost like an audio version of one of these:
I, too, have a hair-trigger tear response to anything touching, which is displayed to me cinematically, and is nearly always accompanied by the tingles. I am touched by things that I think other people would find odd, however, like the concept of reincarnation, or psychic phenomena, or anything gently sexual and romantic. Most especially scenes like those in “The Blue Lagoon,” where the kids grow up, and discover each other as sexual beings, in innocence and freedom, tend to touch my heart most, and cause emotion and tears to well up.
"Good evening, this is Maria again with you. This video is going to be dedicated to your relaxation," says the young, blond woman in a soft voice. She moves slowly from the left side of your screen to the right, and you feel her whispering voice deep within each ear. She picks up a hairbrush, running her fingernails along the bristles and tapping the back of it. She blows into your ear and tickles you with a feather. As the video continues, you begin to feel increasingly relaxed and your eyes droop. The whole time she is speaking gently to you. "We come home and we want to relax," she whispers, petting the camera. "We want someone to pat us on the head and say how good we are. We want someone to comfort us, to tell us that we're so great...that we're appreciated. You are appreciated."
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.
<3 I heard about ASMR a few months ago, and was amazed to learn that only a certain group of people got the head tingles hehe. Whenever I was younger, I would always make my mom braid my hair or brush it, because it would always give me the best shivers. Same with getting a haircut, or going for a doctors appointment. I always assumed it was normal to have those sensations, and that everybody got them. Turns out I was wrong!
Kelly knows that she inspires other kids to take up ASMR – children at school ask for advice on how to make popular YouTube videos. At one football game recently, kids swamped Kelly for photos. “It was like… crazy,” Kelly whispers dramatically. “I went with friends and we walked past this group of cheerleaders and they all got quiet. They came up one after another and were like, ‘Let’s take a picture.’”
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. A feeling that is produced when listening to certain sounds and/or looking at certain visuals. The majority of people who experience ASMR don't mention it to their peers. I can almost guarantee that, you, reading this paragraph, has not mentioned ASMR to anyone you know. Most likely because you think they will think you're weird. We all feel the same way!
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.”
Like many corners of the internet, there’s also a sense of comradery in being outside the norm. According to the Instagram user who runs an chalk-eating ASMR repost account, this has helped build trust in the community. “We all know we are a little left of average in what we find stimulates our ASMR experience, so there’s solidarity and kinship as well," the user said.
These reports have precipitated comparison between ASMR and synesthesia – a condition characterised by the excitation of one sensory modality by stimuli that normally exclusively stimulates another, as when the hearing of a specific sound induces the visualization of a distinct color, a type of synesthesia called chromesthesia. Thereby, people with other types of synesthesia report for example 'seeing sounds' in the case of auditory-visual synesthesia, or 'tasting words' in the case of lexical-gustatory synesthesia.
Of course, Kelly — who was named one of Teen Vogue’s “21 under 21” in November 2018 — is not the only star in the ASMR internet community. The current largest ASMR artist, or “ASMRtist”, on YouTube, Taylor Darling, aka ASMR Darling, has two million subscribers and earns an estimated $1,000 a day in advertising revenue. Global megabrands such as IKEA, Sony, McDonald’s and Toyota have now all created ASMR-inspired adverts, and in October 2018, platinum rapper Cardi B made an ASMR video that went on to be viewed nearly 10,000,000 times. It’s no longer surprising that 75 per cent of children want to be YouTubers, but these kids don’t want to be the next beauty-blogging Zoella or game-streaming PewDiePie. They want to be the next brain-tingling ASMR Darling.
In the middle of the ASMR spectrum I have all sorts of triggers. A deep male voice reading Holy Scriptures. Definitely not as spiritual a response as the Cantor, but still pleasant, even so. A favorite trigger is good music, either played or sung. Usually it’s a voice that does it for me, more so than instruments. Depending on the type of song, lyrics and the melody/drums, music can trigger a wide range of ASMR types for me. Some are very much at the spiritual end, while others bring back the memory of ASMR events, and the memory itself triggers a mild repeat. Really good foods (eating or even smelling them) can trigger tingles in head and shoulders; while a head, back or foot massage can all be triggers, depending on the skill of the person.
I didn’t even know this had a name! I have always been able to induce the feeling by focusing my attention on the base of my skull and letting the energy run. I have always enjoyed the feeling, but experience it as voluntary and not cultivated by sensory/cognitive experiences. Is this strange or are other folks eliciting this feeling when desired as well?
A minor detail, I know, but I’d really appreciate it if you wouldn’t call the head massager an “orgasmatron”. There are enough attempts by the media, both advertent and inadvertent, to sexualize ASMR, and we really don’t want newcommers to get the wrong idea. Those who experience ASMR may be able to easily look past the dis-analogy, but for those who don’t, it’s little things like this that make it that much harder.
A: People think it might be like a fetish community, almost. But it really is a relaxation technique and a community. There’s been a couple studies on it, actually. Basically, people who experience ASMR have their heart rate go down — they are physically relaxed — so it’s the opposite of sexual arousal. It is something that we think you have or don’t have. Some people say, “Oh, my gosh, this makes me want to punch somebody,” and that’s called misophonia. Sometimes some types of ASMR won’t work for some people, and that’s all right. I recommend trying one. There are so many kinds to check out.
This image from video provided by Michelob shows a frame from their 2019 Super Bowl commercial for Michelob Ultra Pure Gold. The ad features the actress Zoe Kravitz using techniques for autonomous sensory meridian response, or ASMR. It is described as a tingly euphoric response, usually starting on the head and scalp, and sometimes spreading down the neck, arms or back. (Michelob ULTRA via AP)
There is something similar to ASMR that comes from touch… The head massager triggers it, getting lightly touched in a crowd can trigger it, etc… I have that but not ASMR,unfortunately I’m alone, so it never gets triggered. Then one day I hear about ASMr and a bunch of people who get to relax just by listening to someone heavy breathing in a youtube video and… I don’t care if this makes me look like a petty person, (life stomped on me and squeezed all my niceness out, so it’s gone now) but I hate all of you and I hope bad things happen to those you love while you have to sit by, unable to do anything. And it serves you right for being happy. No one deserves happiness. Happiness is a lie.
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.
Addressing the issue here of the wire scalp thingy… yeah that one’s right smack in the center of Sensual. Nothing sexual about it, though – for me – nothing particularly Spiritual either. I’ve only ever seen them sold as “Scalp Tinglers”, and didn’t find it very special. I much prefer my Denman scalp massagers. THOSE trigger intense ASMR’s for me. My whole body from crown to toes feels like it’s melting in joy when I scrub my head with two of those things, one in each hand. WOW.
I am so pleased to see posts from people pertaining to ASMR. I didn’t even know it had a name until this year. I’ve had ASMR since I can remember and when I still had it as an adult, I thought I was some kind of freak. I wouldn’t dare speak about it to anyone, even my husband. I have various triggers and for me ASMR is not sexual. The tingles don’t always happen but when they do it’s a wonderful peaceful feeling that I want to go on and on.
Because ASMR is such an individualistic experience, different triggers affect some people more than others. Not everyone experiences ASMR to the same intensity and the effects can differ from person to person. However, ASMR is most commonly described as a pleasurable "tingling" sensation that begins in your scalp and creeps its way down your neck and your back, sometimes spreading out to the limbs. Others describe it as "goosebumps on the brain" and "warm chills," a shivering feeling you might get if someone was gently tracing their finger down your spine. Some say it's like the pins and needles sensation when your foot falls asleep, but pleasurable instead of painful. These tingles are always accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of peaceful relaxation and euphoria; many people report feeling their anxiety slip away, and they often fall asleep afterword.
I am in my early 30’s and have experienced this feeling since I was very young. I never understood it, but always loved it. It was my “special feeling” I’ve only just looked it up online and found this. You sum it up so well. I love make up tutorials on youtube, where they are talking to you but working with their hands and sometimes it’s the “click” of something…like when they are putting things away but not rushing….its that sound that also brings it out in me. I have it at work quite often, when someone is showing me something and its the click of the pen, or the keyboard that sets it off. It’s an amazing feeling and I love having it, never ever thought it was a “real” thing!
While scientific evidence is pretty scarce, the number of devotees is overwhelming: ASMR online groups and forums are flooded with stories of people suffering from unbearable and incurable anxiety or insomnia until they came across Bob Ross' soothing voice on late-night TV or heard pages gently turning in a library. (Related: Incredibly Odd Insomnia Cures People Actually Try)
In addition to the information collected from the 475 subjects who participated in the scientific investigation conducted by Nick Davies and Emma Barratt, there have been two attempts to collate statistical data pertaining to the demographics, personal history, clinical conditions, and subjective experience of those who report susceptibility to ASMR.