I Asked Scientists Why I Can't Stand ASMR Videos
So many sounds get under my skin and even anger me. I’ve left the dinner table after being revolted by hearing others chewing and swallowing. When someone whispers something to me at the movies, it’s so creepy that I actually shudder.
The first time I heard an autonomous sensory meridian response—or ASMR—video, my sound sensitivities were triggered, but not in a good way. I was so creeped out that I could only listen for a few seconds.
Youtube has millions of ASMR videos showing people whispering, crinkling paper and tapping on tables. People rave about ASMR as a self-care tool, and YouTube ASMR channels rack up millions of viewers. It’s become ingrained in pop culture, and was even featured in Michelob Ultra Gold’s Super Bowl commercial this year, starring actress Zoe Kravitz whispering into a microphone while surrounded by a mountain landscape. The ad has more than 14 million views on YouTube.
Those who love ASMR get an involuntary pleasant warm, tingling sensation from sounds like whispering, soft-speaking, tapping or scratching. The tingling leads to a calm, relaxed feeling that reduces anxiety. I feel the opposite when I hear ASMR videos. I feel creeped out, stressed, anxious, and even angry—no tingles.
So, why do some people feel an overwhelming sense of calm and others a sense of agitation, even rage, from ASMR videos? That remains unanswered by research, but there are several theories, says Craig Richard, professor of biopharmaceutical sciences at Shenandoah University, author of Brain Tingles and founder of the site ASMR University.
“It's definitely this complex thing that probably over time we'll start parsing out some of the factors that are involved,” he says. “But right now, there is no scientific association with any cause or aspect of why some people are relaxed by ASMR videos and some people can't turn them off quick enough.”