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What is ASMR - what it means and how it works
You probably know the goosebumps effect. It is triggered by a great song or an exciting scene in a film. A wave then passes through you, which literally gives you goose bumps. Or scratching a blackboard at school triggers goose bumps.
It is similar with ASMR, only that this form of goose bumps is not tense, but relaxing.
In the following article you will find out what is behind the abbreviation “ASMR” and what effects it can have on you.
What is ASMR?
ASMR is the abbreviation for "Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response". Translated, ASMR means “autonomous sensory meridian response”. Meridian refers to channels for the life energy "Qi", as taught in traditional Chinese medicine.
What is meant is a feeling that ASMR triggers in the viewer, reader or listener. People who are susceptible to it describe the feeling as a pleasant tingling sensation on the skin. It resembles a very light electrostatic discharge and spreads over the body.
Most often it starts on the back of the head and from there spreads over the neck, spine and shoulders. Radiation to other areas of the body is also possible. Especially if they are to be addressed by ASMR.
This tingling sensation is also known as a tingle or tingles. What triggers tingles can vary from person to person. Some respond well to visual stimuli, while others are more sensitive to sound. Reading an intense scene or actually touching it can also trigger the tingling sensation.
In general, ASMR has a calming and relaxing effect. Therefore, many people use ASMR to help them fall asleep.
History of the ASMR
The term ASMR has been around since 2010. It has its origins in the USA. Since then, videos of so-called “ASMRtists” (a play on words with the English word “artist”) can be found on YouTube. In these, the listener and viewer are addressed gently and receive attention.
What are ASMR triggers?
ASMR triggers are all those stimuli that can trigger a tingling sensation. In videos, references to the triggers contained can often be found in the headings.
In visual ASMR, the ASMRtist induces the tingles only through optical stimuli. There are different possibilities for this.
One way is to see the camera as people. The ASMRtist now pretends to touch the other person's face, i.e. the camera. Games with light can also lead to tingles. The ASMRtist shines a small flashlight into the camera from different directions.
Some videos only treat the camera as a camera. In this case, ASMRtist show various tools to create tingles triggered by visual triggers. A bar of soap that they cut up is a very popular trigger. A training manikin for beauticians or nail designers can also be used. ASMRtists then apply visually perceptible stimuli to these aids, which lead to the relaxing tingling sensation in the viewer.
Many use role-playing games to give the viewer a more realistic experience. A visit to the beautician, ophthalmologist or dermatologist is advisable for visual ASMR, for example. Measuring different parts of the body or face can also lead to tingling.
Noises are also very popular with the ASMR. Noises such as scratching, typing, crackling or dripping water are very common triggers in ASMR videos. Similar to the visual ASMR, the ASMRtist handles the camera in the auditory one.
He treats the camera as a different person, on or with whom he is making these noises. Or he shows an object in his video that he scratches or taps on. For example, a microphone that is stroked and dabbed with makeup brushes can lead to tingles.
In addition, the voice of the ASMRtist is often important. Soft, whispered language or noises such as breathing, swallowing, chewing or loosening the tongue from the roof of the mouth have a very calming effect on some people.
There are also special words that can act as triggers. In English these are, for example, "Tomato", "Cookie", "Whisper" or "Perfect". German examples would be "little bell", "sugar", "Gibst" or "Knittern".
Here, too, role-playing games are often used. For example, the viewer is at the hairdresser's, being made up or drawn. Soft music or noises such as rain or wind in the background can also be used.
In most cases, there are combinations of visual and auditory stimuli in ASMR videos. It looks more natural and at the same time appeals to more viewers.
ASMR trigger by reading
Reading-induced tingling of the scalp is less common. This requires a scene that is described in great detail and found to be extremely appealing to the reader. What exactly the scene that triggers the tingling is about can be very different.
Where does the relaxing effect of ASMR come from?
This has not yet been clearly researched. The main difficulty is that ASMR does not affect everyone in the same way. Some are completely insensitive while others are very quick to respond to a wide variety of triggers. So it is a subjective perception of some people that ASMR describes as relaxing, but at the same time also exciting.
In this case, arousal does not mean sexual arousal. In experiments, researchers were able to determine that ASMR increases skin conductivity, which speaks for arousal, i.e. activation of the body. At the same time, ASMR lowered the heart rate of the test subjects and they felt reassured.
So ASMR triggers opposite feelings in people who are receptive to it. You could compare it to the feeling of nostalgia. On the one hand, we indulge in wonderful memories. On the other hand, we are sad that the time we remembered is over.
Since in many areas of ASMR the aim is to pay close attention to the target person, another comparison suggests itself: One could compare ASMR with the mutual lousing of primates. These also deal intensively with one or more conspecifics. They take care of each other and get rid of parasites and dirt particles at the same time.
In primates, lousing is not only used for grooming. Taking care of one another bonds the group together and strengthens social bonds.
If these observations are transferred to ASMR in humans, we react in a very similar way to primates. Both the primate and the person susceptible to ASMR relax with the attention given to them.
The need for security and security, which humans also have, probably also plays a role. If someone cares about us so intensely, we feel safe.
Of course, we can only guess whether primates also feel the tingling sensation typical of ASMR while grooming.
Does ASMR have anything to do with sexuality and lust?
As mentioned earlier, the sensation of arousal in ASMR is not sexual arousal. Still, ASMR is often associated with sexuality and lust. One possible explanation for this is the simulated intense attention. We usually only know this from our partner or other people who are very close to us.
In addition, the most successful ASMRtist are young, beautiful women. Of course, that alone is not evidence of a sexual component in ASMR. However, the differences are difficult to recognize, especially for people who cannot do anything with ASMR.
A young woman who breathes intensely into her microphone or pretends to stroke the face of her viewer seems strange to her. The fact that she wants to sexually arouse her viewer seems more plausible than the connection to louse in primates.
ASMR as therapy
ASMR could be a therapy method for depression in the future. Researchers are currently working on using the relaxation induced by ASMR as a therapy. The relaxing effect of ASMR is often much stronger than with other, traditional methods.
However, this area of the ASMR has not yet been adequately researched either. However, many ASMRtists know that a significant part of their viewers consists of severely stressed or mentally ill people. They point this out especially in videos that deal with these topics.
(Unwanted) ASMR in films or series
There are also scenes in films or series that can unintentionally trigger ASMR tingles. For example, the hairdressing scenes in Edward Scissorhands can trigger a tingling sensation. Likewise, a scene from the animated film Toy Story 2, in which a figure is repaired and cleaned by a toy restorer.
But intense attention is not always required to trigger tingles. A scene from Django Unchained, in which a beer mug is filled and the foam is skimmed off, also leads to a relaxed, satisfying tingling sensation in some people.
ASMR in everyday life
We can also encounter ASMR in everyday life. Typing on a mechanical keyboard is very comforting to some people. Likewise, an actual visit to the hairdresser or nail salon can lead to tingles.
ASMR is a feeling of a pleasant tingling sensation on the skin, which has not yet been adequately researched scientifically. In many cases, this is triggered by intense attention. Various noises (crackling, scratching, ...) and visual stimuli such as stroking or light trigger a feeling in some people that could be similar to that of primates lousing themselves.
This has not yet been proven. However, since both actions are about attention and caring, it stands to reason to suspect a connection.
However, not all people are susceptible to ASMR. There are also clear differences in preferences among the receptive people.
Possibly ASMR could help mentally ill people in the future. However, this area also needs further research.
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