ASMR is a complex emotional state that only some people experience when they hear, see, and feel certain “triggers,” such as whispering, delicate hand movements, and light touch. The feeling is described as a tingling sensation beginning at the crown of the head which can spread down the neck and limbs. The tingling sensation comes in waves and is a “trance-like” immersive state accompanied by feelings of euphoria and relaxation.
Interest in ASMR has exploded over the past ten years since the term was coined. What started as a short whispering video on YouTube in 2009 has since gone viral. So-called “ASMRtists” gather millions of views on their videos which can elicit this trance-like state of euphoric relaxation.
ASMR isn’t something that everyone experiences but, for those that do, we now know there are consistencies in what they report. First, we know that ASMR typically emerges in childhood (common early examples are feeling tingles during lice checks at school, or when playing the guessing game of “what letter am I tracing on your back?”). Interestingly, when people find out ASMR is a “thing” they often report either that they thought everyone had the same experience or that it was unique to them.
Second, although people have their own particular tastes, there are remarkable consistencies in ASMR triggers. Common triggers include soft touch, whispering, soft-speaking, close personal attention, delicate hand movements and crisp sounds.
Situations that induce ASMR often involve a combination of these triggers – such as getting a haircut, or watching someone complete a mundane task like folding laundry. It’s no surprise, then, that the most popular ASMR videos simulate this layering of triggers.