All my life I’ve had these strange interactions with people, usually women, where I listen to them speak, and I feel like I’ve been put in a trance. I get goosebumps and tingles; I feel incredibly comforted; it’s just a feeling of all encompassing relaxation and peace. Two months ago I found out it’s not just me – there are millions of people that experience the same reactions when listening to someone’s voice. The phenomenon is known as ASMR, Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. ASMR is a perceptual phenomenon, usually characterized as a distinct (and pleasurable) tingling sensation in the head, scalp, back, or peripheral regions of the body in response to a number of cognitive stimuli to the senses. To put it simply, ASMR is the response to sounds that produce a euphoric sensation in the body.
Many people who don’t understand what ASMR is consider it sexual – they think people who experience this phenomenon are having mind orgasms or are experiencing a sexual response, but it’s far from that. There is nothing sexual about ASMR, and there is no touching involved in ASMR; it’s simply the response the body has when hearing certain sounds. Sounds that can trigger ASMR range from whispering, scratching, tapping, blowing, turning the pages of a book or magazine, the crinkling of plastic, and hundreds more. There are literally thousands of ASMR videos on Youtube, where ASMR artists, who are mostly women, produce videos of tapping their fingers on hard surfaces, whispering while brushing someone’s hair, enacting a role play requested by a follower – the list is endless.
To be totally honest, the response is kind of weird. When you’re a young kid and you get shivers down your back when a teacher talks to you, you kind of wonder whether or not that’s normal. But after reading the thousands of comments from other viewers on Youtube, it seems as though ASMR is very common, and what’s even more proof is the number of subscribers ASMR artists have on their Youtube channels. The one artist I’ve followed for a few months is GentleWhispering, who has over 436,413 subscribers for her ASMR channel, and her most popular video has 11,083,927 views and counting. Even Bob Ross, the well-known painter, has been known to produce ASMR in watchers and listeners of his many captivating videos.
ASMR isn’t new, but it’s a term produced to explain the body’s response to these sounds. The term was coined in 2010 by Jennifer Allen. There is little scientific information regarding the phenomenon, and it’s so out of the ordinary it’s highly unlikely to attract a lot of scientists to study it. But that doesn’t mean it’s not popular – many news outlets have covered ASMR, including ABC World News, This American Life, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, and many more. The Internet has been one of the major ways people have been able to come together and understand the body’s response to triggers. From the looks of it, ASMR will continue to confuse and excite the masses for years to come.
Do you have ASMR? Have you ever experienced tingles down your back when listening to certain sounds? What sounds set you off?