Four months after Novella's blog post, Tom Stafford, a lecturer in psychology and cognitive sciences at the University of Sheffield, was reported to have said that ASMR "might well be a real thing, but it's inherently difficult to research...something like this that you can't see or feel" and "doesn't happen for everyone". Stafford compared the current status of ASMR with development of attitudes toward synesthesia, which he said "for years...was a myth, then in the 1990s people came up with a reliable way of measuring it".
The ASMR community has grown online by the hundreds of thousands over the years so far worldwide and shows no sign of slowing down. As the culture of self awareness, mindfulness and complimentary therapies grow, ASMR is becoming very useful for so many. ASMR content on YouTube is becoming a genre all of its own and strong bonds are being formed between people all over the world. Watch this space for there will undoubtably be much more to come!
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”.
In 2019, Anheuser-Busch debuted a commercial advertisement that was aired during the 2019 Super Bowl for their Michelob Ultra "Pure Gold" organic beer featuring a time lapse video intro and various ASMR components with Zoe Kravitz performing. In the ad, Kravitz uses ASMR techniques including whispering and tapping on a Pure Gold brand bottle into two microphones.
For those who don't experience ASMR, it can be difficult to wrap your head around this "tingling" feeling and how something as simple as whispering or clicking could trigger it. But recent research has shown that ASMR is more than just a self-reported feeling—it can be measured physiologically. A 2018 study published in the journal PLOS One found that people who watched ASMR videos had a decreased heart rate in response, which can explain the intense feeling of relaxation many people report. Researchers also recorded higher levels of skin conductance in people experiencing ASMR, indicating arousal or excitement (likely due to the tingles).
While I will admit that ASMR (and sleep) is definitely the kind of thing that admits of “more” and “less” descriptors, I’m still not convinced that it is “intensity” that is the proper target of the “more” and “less” (btw, do you see what I mean? “intense” by itself isn’t a term of comparison. You need to introduce “more” and “less” for this… but more and less what?). However, I’ll also admit that I’m at a loss to suggest a better term. Maybe this is the kind of thing that merits it’s own category, and eventually we’ll just say that something is more or less ASMR… doesn’t quite have the same ring to it though…
For instance, you’re probably familiar with soap cutting ASMR videos, which sound like a xylophone, or emptying a bag of Scrabble letters onto a table. But more broadly, ASMR posts generally seek to trigger an autonomous sensory meridian response—a tingly feeling provoked by certain noises and sensory inputs. The community is huge: there are currently over 5.3 million Instagram posts tagged under #ASMR on Instagram (the genre is hugely popular on YouTube, too.)
Many of those who experience ASMR report that some specific non-vocal ambient noises are also effective triggers of ASMR, including those like the sound of rain, fingers scratching or tapping a surface, the crushing of eggshells, the crinkling and crumpling of a flexible material such as paper, or writing. Many YouTube videos that are intended to trigger ASMR responses capture a single person performing these actions and the sounds that result.