“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.”
Replies to this post indicated that a significant number of other people had experienced the sensation which "okaywhatever" described - also in response to witnessing mundane events. The interchanges precipitated the formation of a number of web-based locations intended to facilitate further discussion and analysis of the phenomenon for which there were plentiful anecdotal accounts, yet no consensus-agreed name nor any scientific data or explanation.
Having previously practiced yoga and meditation for over 10 years, I can induce ASMR at will, or "bliss", as it's called in the spiritual community. It's often part of the very first steps on a spiritual journey, though no requirement. These videos didn't induce ASMR in me though, so maybe it's a different sensation than "bliss", or different triggers.
“When a newborn is born, the sensation that is the most developed and they receive the most information through is touch, and the one that’s least developed is sight,” he says. Parents show infants love most of all through touch, he argues—coddling, stroking—and all of this helps explain why ASMR is, at its best, an in-person experience with echoes of childhood experiences.
Over at Shenandoah University in Winchester, Va., Craig Richard, a professor of biopharmaceutical sciences, runs the clearinghouse website ASMR University, where he interviews people who’ve studied the phenomenon and blogs about ASMR in the news. Richard himself reports experiencing ASMR; nevertheless, he says scientific skepticism is warranted until more studies are published. To that end, Richard and two other researchers, Allen and a graduate student, have been conducting an online survey that he says so far includes 20,000 people across over 100 countries, almost all of them “tingleheads.”
One category depends upon external triggers in order to experience the localized sensation and its associated feelings, which typically originates in the head, often reaching down the neck and sometimes the upper back. The other category can intentionally augment the sensation and feelings through attentional control, without dependence upon external stimuli, or 'triggers', in a manner compared by some subjects to their experience of meditation.
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?”
All of which is to say, watch the thing. It comes from an album that honestly made me think, ‘hang on, where have Drenge been and were they always sounding this good?’ I think I last saw them at Glastonbury 2014, a year when I accosted them backstage and filmed a short video interview for the publication where I worked at the time. They seemed very tired but very cheerful. At that stage, they were bang in the middle of their first wave of hype. They’d released their self-titled debut album in autumn 2013, seemingly coming out of nowhere (in fact: Castleton) with a fully-formed sound. They both also seemed so young, grinning gamely in interviews—I could’ve sworn they were teens and not, in fact, in their early twenties by the time they broke through.
“I just tried it because I thought it would help out my channel and it did, yeah,” Kelly says of her honeycomb video. When she started her channel in March 2018, Kelly made more traditional YouTube videos – filming herself applying make-up and eating different foreign snacks. “It was exciting,” she says of going viral, “because I was like, this could actually be my dream, I’ve always wanted a lot of subscribers.”
"As ASMR has started to come to mainstream attention, researchers have finally begun trying to answer that question. Neuroscientists are now experimenting with fMRIs and electroencephalography to see if the brains of 'tingleheads,' as they are called, are any different than those who don’t tremble at the sight of napkin-folding. They’ve also surveyed tens of thousands of people who say they experience the phenomenon. So far there are intriguing—if limited—findings suggesting that ASMR may relieve some people’s symptoms of stress and insomnia, and that the brains of those who experience it may be organized a little differently."
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.
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 the phenomenon has nonetheless burst into the mainstream, thanks to mounting media coverage and a few high-profile references: “Saturday Night Live” alum Molly Shannon gushed to Conan O’Brien about her “head orgasms,” induced by the methodical touch of airport security pat-downs; novelist Andrea Seigel shared her experience with ASMR on the radio program “This American Life” last year; the “Dr. Oz” show has featured ASMR videos as a way to ease insomnia.
The ASMR videos are easy to laugh at if you’re a casual observer–when I recently played one on my iPhone for guests at a dinner party, everyone cracked up within five seconds of watching the video. The videos usually include an attractive woman in a role-play scenario: She’s pretending to be an eye doctor, a makeup artist, or even checking hair for head lice. All videos are shot in first person, so the viewer appears to be alone in the room with the woman. And she’s usually whispering or speaking softly to you. It’s this combination of voice and the sounds from object interaction that the viewer hopes will trigger an ASMR experience.
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.
Jacob Daniel is clearly a savvy child – although excitable and eccentric, he talks soberly about safety on YouTube, clapping his hands as he tells children to “be, be safe”. He tells kids to use fake names, access their email with VPNs, and avoid making custom Skype calls with viewers. For all his intelligence, however, Daniel is still a child. He and Prunkl show off a series of wigs they play with at home – he dons a purple one with red horns; Prunkl shows me her doll. They talk excitedly about the pranks they play on the public, wearing the wigs to order food in take-away shops.
I’m a prematurely retired, disabled, UCLA med school trained pediatrician, due to a stroke and for me ASMR occurs only with music, but just what I call exquisite(level) music. Interestingly before my love for science, my first love was music, as an alto, tenor, and baritone sax player as a child. My experience is that it always is full body, at the onset, and sometimes is accompanied by a slight body warmth effect. It is always a very pleasant sensation, and does not always occur with these level of songs. Not maybe related, but I’ve become a sensation at party type celebrations, as people are amazed at my dancing skills without my quad cane, without much use of my limited right side of my body. They look at me in a crazed way when I tell them I really don’t consider it dancing, in the strictest sense, but it’s like the music and I are symbiotic, and I become the music so that my body just starts spontaneously moving in such a way they would not believe possible, with much improved balance, as people start to hoot, holler, clap and recording with their smart phones. I’m not putting on a show, just enjoying music at the highest level I know. I have always loved music intensely. Initially, I did what I call chair dancing, all upper body, for quite some time, after my stroke.
Sounds work ok, but I have always got the most (for lack of better word) intense asmr from touch. They don’t even have to touch me. When I was in 4-5 grade I would get it when someone I dont know well touched something close to me like my favorite stuffed animal or the eraser I use every day at school. Now I can just get lightly touched on the face and it will happen. I can just think about it and get it now.
I had an abnormal psychology professor in undergrad that would have me drooling by the end of class because her voice was so “soothing”. Lately, I have found that instructional videos via Youtube do the trick. I’m embarrassed to say, but I watched a video of some random guy giving a tutorial on how to properly clean out your ear for roughly a year (lol). I can watch nearly anything instructional to induce the sensation, but I am drawn to videos in which the narrator has an accent.
The left side of Makenna Kelly’s bedroom is just like any other child’s. Her silver and white bedspread matches a feature wall, she has a dresser with her own TV and her nickname – “Kenna” – is spelled out in wooden letters above the window. On the right side of her room, however, things are less ordinary. There are three professional studio lights and a tripod, a silver plaque congratulating her on 100,000 YouTube subscribers and a framed letter from Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO. Sellotaped on the closet door is the fan mail.
Think about nails scratching a chalkboard for one second. Are you flinching? One study found that this sound literally accelerated the participants’ stress levels, quickening heart rates, heightening blood pressure and even altering the skin’s electrical conductivity. In the study, the scientists discovered that—when stimulated with this screeching sound, the auditory cortex interacted with the amygdala, which controls responses related to fear and emotions.
An article titled "An examination of the default mode network in individuals with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR)" by Stephen D. Smith, Beverley Katherine Fredborg, and Jennifer Kornelsen, looked at the default mode network (DMN) in individuals with ASMR. The study, which used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), concluded that there were significant differences in the DMN of individuals who have ASMR as compared to a control group without ASMR.