I am writing an anthropological history of ASMR...please help me by commenting below. I have my Honors (ARTS) in anthropology( Monash University- Department of Anthropology and Sociology) and am in the final stages of completing my Masters in Counselling(Monash University).
You do not need to agree with anything I write. In fact I would welcome constructive input and criticism. I am looking for honest opinion. Thank you for your time.
Please be aware that the below represents a work in progress. I work on this a little bit each day
I feel that if we do not write a definitive qualitative and quantitative history and interpretation of what ASMR is together with its benefits with an open conversation then we risk the possibility that some one who does not support ASMR or sensationalist media may write it.
Here is a comment I enjoyed.
Please understand after being in the community for almost 5 years it always bothers me quite a bit when my other fellow community brothers and sisters presume to tell people what ASMR is and isn't with absolutely no credible study or research to back up their statements and then they go on to inform on our history without any insight on what their talking about. I’m not saying that I have all the answers. I do not and that’s my point. None of us do. So let me make some comments (Larry)
The Genesis of a sub culture of ASMR by Lauren Ostrowski Fenton
When I was a child I distinctly remember feeling a euphoric sensation when my mother held up hand- crafted reading cards teaching me both English and polish. As her fine beautiful hands would hold up each card she would look deeply into my eyes with love, patience, and care. She held her face close to mine in anticipation of my response. I would watch her lips as she carefully enunciated each word and would sit almost transfixed with a feeling of meditative bliss. As the ritual required I would quietly repeat each word back to her. And then my mother would smile, praise me with a soft touch, and hold up another card. As I considered each card she would tap her nails patiently on our ceramic lounge occasional table. It was as if the whole world stopped and all that existed was the loving close repetitive interaction of development between my mother and me. This marked a defining memory for me…one that would impact upon the rest of my life.
This was my first memory of feeling ASMR. I experienced the euphoria by feeling tingles down the back of my spine. The hairs on my arms would stand up and I felt almost as if my brain was being tickled. I wished that the experience could go on forever. Later I would repeat the experience in my head in order to once more feel the brain tickles and if I really concentrated I could re-live the happy memory of the close caring maternal contact. Cards, nail tapping, paper, loving eyes, and close up faces at times remind me of my loving mother and take me make to that moment of love and maternal nurturing
What is ASMR?(autonomous sensory meridian response)
Put very simply ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) is a pleasant physical and emotional sense of euphoria or well-being expressed through a tingle like feeling around the head or arms and legs. Although some people report derivations of these feelings all reports have been that asmr is a pleasant non sexual sensory experience.
"First “What is ASMR?” I think you hit on some of the things people describe. I never heard anyone describe it as emotional before. But at the same time there have been no conclusive studied as of yet. There have been mentions of studies here and there even one at Dartmouth University, but there has been no more mention of that proposed study in months. So I don’t feel anyone including myself can say what ASMR simply is, without any real research. What basis do we have to say what the primary feelings are and what the deviations are? I know the feeling I get when I experience ASMR, but that of course may be different from what you experience. Even the ASMR research.org page actually offers absolutely no research at all to back up their statements of what they called Type A and Type B experiences. I just hate when people in the community make statements of what ASMR is and what ASMR isn’t, when none of us really know with any accuracy. All anyone can say at this point is how they themselves experience ASMR. Anything beyond that is pure speculation. Also I don’t think that ASMR is a sexual at all. But over the years I have heard many say that the ASMR experience can also be sensual for them at times but not sexual. Maria, Lilium and other well-known ASMRtist have made sensual type videos in the past. They were done very tasteful of course, and they gave tingles the same as there other videos. And since nobody has the studies or research to make factual claims, I think we all need be responsible and state what the facts are and what our opinions are."(Larry)
"One odd thing that often sets me off is casual breaches of the social code. For example, I got a really strong ASMR to watching the younger sister of a classmate (then a stranger) come into my dorm room and casually start going through my drawers, even though I was sitting right there, when we were all moving into our rooms freshman year. I'm not sure whether it was incredulity that sparked it, or the casualness of the act."(LeeKotner)
These sensations are triggered by
Close personal contact
Up close visuals of caring eyes, mouths, or faces
Repetitive almost monotonous actions which symbolise care ( such as folding towels)
Whispering or soft speaking
Quiet caring rituals
Acts which may trigger asmr include
Caring Role playing
Ritualized behaviors of social reciprocity such as making a cup of tea
Repetitive Hair brushing
hair dryers, zippers, bags, or make up
Ritualise caring behaviour
"What about the sound of certain machines? that's my biggest trigger and although I do share all of the triggers you mentioned I feel that you should consider including these kind of triggers too.
I could spend an entire day listening to a hair dryer sound. It takes me somewhere else and gives me tingles all over my scalp and head and arms.("hairdrerguy)
ASMR: A CULTURE OF RECIPROCITY & GIFT GIVING
One of the common themes of an ASMR interaction evident in some videos is the virtual display of reciprocity.
'Reciprocity in social psychology refers to responding to a positive action with another positive action, rewarding kind actions. As a social construct, reciprocity means that in response to friendly actions, people are frequently much nicer and much more cooperative than predicted by the self-interest model; conversely, in response to hostile actions they are frequently much more nasty and even brutal' http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reciprocity_(social_psychology)
There may be such acts of virtual giving as
of a cup of tea
a glass of water
of hand shaking
foods, lollies or meals
Reciprocity is a cultural example of 'giving' in order to nurture communal growth, satisfy needs, and foster relationships. The implied reciprocity in some ASMR videos may give the viewer a sensation of being in a virtual friendship. Research conducted my Dr Emmons ( ref?)suggests that the act of giving and receiving inspires trust, lowers blood pressure and promotes well being. The qualitative experiences of ASMR viewers would suggest that some viewers feel a sense of well being through the act of virtual giving and receiving.
'Giving is contagious. When we give, we don’t only help the immediate recipient of our gift. We also spur a ripple effect of generosity through our community.
A study by James Fowler of the University of California, San Diego, and Nicholas Christakis of Harvard, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, shows that when one person behaves generously, it inspires observers to behave generously later, toward different people. In fact, the researchers found that altruism could spread by three degrees—from person to person to person to person. “As a result,” they write, “each person in a network can influence dozens or even hundreds of people, some of whom he or she does not know and has not met.”
'Giving has also been linked to the release of oxytocin, a hormone (also released during sex and breast feeding) that induces feelings of warmth, euphoria, and connection to others. In laboratory studies, Paul Zak, the director of the Center for Neuroeconomics Studies at Claremont Graduate University, has found that a dose of oxytocin will cause people to give more generously and to feel more empathy towards others, with “symptoms” lasting up to two hours. And those people on an “oxytocin high” can potentially jumpstart a “virtuous circle, where one person’s generous behavior triggers another’s,” says Zak.' http://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/5_ways_giving_is_good_for_you
As this sensation experienced through acts of positive reciprocity are generally described as a pleasant sensation it may be theorized that the resultant 'pleasant feeling' from ASMR acts of virtual reciprocity may decrease anxiety, blood pressure, and perceptions of loneliness and accordingly increase levels of viewer satisfaction and well being.
The connection between ASMR and reciprocity
I propose the theory yet to be researched that some people who experience ASMR may produce levels of the hormone Oxytocin thereby having the effect of relaxing or comforting the viewer. I propose that some triggers may remind the viewer of pleasant child hood developmental memories during which the viewer felt nurtured and loved. If this is in fact the case in some ASMR experiences it may be theorized that ASMR decreases stress and increases levels of satisfaction and well being.
Here is an example of a caring role play by Ilse of the Waterwhispers which may elicit the Oxytocin effect in some viewers.
The value of role play in ASMR
“Freud believed he could understand children by watching them play,” says Theresa Aiello, PhD, coordinator of the Child & Family Focused Learning Opportunity Program and codirector of the Advanced Certificate in Child and Family Therapy at New York University Silver School of Social Work. “Play is a form of free association for children, but it’s also a way of understanding how the child develops a sense of self. http://www.socialworktoday.com/archive/051711p20.shtml
One of the themes of ASMR is role playing. Role playing allows the viewer to enter a world of fantasy in which the viewer may explore more safely explore feelings, needs, and sensations. Themes may vary from caring and medical role plays right through to zombie and Fantasy based role plays. Through role plays the viewer may find a safe vehicle in which to explore a sense of self, relax, find distraction from stressful events and experiences or simply have fun.
Examples of role plays:
fairy and mystical
fitness and health
The following two role plays are popular due to the asmrtists ability to use non verbal techniques and vocal techniques to convey interest and care and provide the illusion that a relationship exists between the viewer and the presenter.
The following role plays have proven popular possibly due to the following techniques:
soft spoken vocals and vocal variation
active listening techniques
focus on the needs of the viewer
Kara of asmrasmrnovastar
Who feels ASMR?
I believe that some of us have always had the gift of feeling ASMR but have not talked about these feelings in fear of being branded ‘weird’ or ‘different’. It is only in recent years with the emergence of such classic asmrtisians on you tube listed below that ASMR has come to the fore
The oldest whisperer
One of the oldest whisperers from 2009 and onwards....
History & The early pioneers of ASMR( I will update this)
Although there are so many wonderful asmrtists who contributed to the development of ASMR the following represent the pioneers of ASMR. A common thread between these artists is their gentle nature, compassionate souls, ASMR gift, and support of others asmrtists and non-asmrtists alike.
( Please excuse me if I left out any pioneers let me know and I will add them and edit this)
ASMR is a feeling people get, and as nobody can pioneer any type of feeling, nobody can be a pioneer of ASMR. They can however be a pioneer of creating ASMR videos Also the ASMRtists you mentioned are amazing! I can’t tell you how much of their videos I enjoy on a daily basis! But I have to say they are not the Pioneers of video creators. They are some of the most amazing, well-known and influential video creators, but respectfully so many have come before them that laid the foundation for ASMRtists. ASMR/Whispering videos started on YouTube in March of 2009, that’s two years before the earliest person on your list began making videos. Heather Feather is amazing and I love her, but she hasn’t even making videos for a year yet. Anyways I love these ASMRtists but I think you need to do some research to find out about some of the actual pioneers.(Larry)
The growth of an ASMR sub culture.
Although asmrtists and their enthusiasts do not have an organised group as such a defined subculture with spiritual, political, and social morals and beliefs is starting to emerge. Across the world asmrtists are congregating, meeting, and growing closer. The common thread between asmrtists is a feeling of amicable almost loving camaraderie and support; an unspoken belief to protect the underdog, and perceive the glass of life as half full. The asmr sub culture stands strong in support of individual freedom of expression and the inherent needs of each member of the community.
Do you feel ASMR?
It seems at this early stage of sub-cultural development that not everyone can feel ASMR. However as the ASMR sub culture is only in its infant stages there is so much we still do not know about ASMR.
What do I do if I feel ASMR?
If you feel asmr…in a word congratulations! And don’t take it too seriously…the subculture of asmr is about a somewhat civil libertarian approach to fun, mutual support, and safe non-sexual pleasure While not being anarchic in political orientation the ASMR sub culture at this stage resists the idea of institution or organised religion. Although ASMR is a sub culture with associated rituals beliefs and behaviors an unspoken code of ethics is fast emerging. ASMR is not a leader or government based sub culture but has more of a socialist egalitarian-orientation willing to support all members large and small. ASMR is a nonexclusive free spirited sub culture founded on acceptance and freedom of expression.
Benefits of ASMR
The experience of ASMR holds so many possible benefits to those who may experience it. Among these benefits are
A deep feeling of relaxation
A desire to fall asleep
increase of self awareness
Research into ASMR
As yet there has not been any formal research that i know of into ASMR. It is my intention to do my PHD in this subject. At present there are only qualitative theories. I have conducted some qualitative research yet to be completed available here : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9XD60AZfrkY
ASMR and the media
At present the media's representation of ASMR has not always been accurate. At times the media has described ASMR with some ignorance and without sufficient research. The Young Turks video February 2013 is one example of sensationalist type media coverage. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE_ByMAjxuE
This critical portrayal of ASMR as creepy and possibly pornographic inspired a number of passionate response videos defending ASMR's sub cultures non sexual orientation.
One of effects of the Young Turks video was to rally asmrtists into a level of organised defense of the non sexual orientation and legitimacy of ASMR. This video by ASMR requests http://www.youtube.com/user/ASMRrequests below responds to the young Turks video with a contest which inspired many responses. It could be argued that the Young Turks video strengthened the union and community of ASMR who congregated through blog, interview, and video to defend the legitimacy and benefits of ASMR for the greater community.
Your memories of the history ASMR?
Your memories of the development of ASMR or at least our realization that ASMR exists is vital. Here is one asmrtist's valid and noteworthy opinion- what is yours?
I have been in the community since December of 2008. At that time there were no ASMR/Whisper video creators yet. There were however videos on You Tube of the “Big Brother” tv series. These were video clips of people on the TV show having whispered conversations. A group of us came together there on You Tube in a common love for whispering. Then in March of 2009, the first intentional whispering video for relaxation was made. That’s when it all began. And so many amazing things and people have come along to bless this great community (Larry)
A qualitative subjective survey on ASMR in progress:
A word of gentle warning
As asmr is often sleep inducing it may be wise not to listen to asmr while driving or operating heavy machinery.
ASMR is about enjoying life, promoting peace, healing, and a feeling of community. The definitions and science are not as important as the plain fact…that ASMR encourages peace, acceptance, and well-being.
7th August There are currently several comments which i have not responded to. I work on this article a little each day. i look forward to editing and responding to the comments below. thank you for your input.
3rd August 2013
I have just received the comments below and will respond and edit accordingly. THANK YOU!!!!
Please note I am very open and welcoming of any criticism of my comments. Larry I love your letter!!! I love all the letters. Please feel free to speak loudly and clearly about what you feel. No one owns ASMR. There has not been any objective quantitative research done yet. I am itching to do my PHD next in it!I have applied and am waiting a response. So please criticize my words with the full force of your beliefs!!!
By Lauren Ostrowski Fenton( life coach, writer, and speaker)
I am a life coach, personal trainer, speaker, and promoter of well being
I provide & write about asmr, meditation, sleep therapy & life coaching services.
ASMR and meditation can give us the stillness that we require in order to discover our inner self
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