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The Uses and Effects of ASMR Videos: How Far is Too Far?

3384 words (14 pages) Essay in Psychology

08/02/20 Psychology Reference this

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 A new wave of pleasure is emerging in today’s world, and ASMR is the cause. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. In today’s world, almost anyone who knows anything about ASMR probably finds the term to be synonymous with ASMR videos. If one goes online to websites such as YouTube or Reddit and they type in ASMR, they can find just about an infinite and continuously growing number of these videos where people are finding ways to make each other feel good. Many people find that they enjoy the response their body has from these videos, but most do not know why. Some find that the response to these videos is negative or even in some cases, a response of disgust. Are these reactions biological, psychological, curiosity at its finest, or none of the above? Many have studied ASMR and people’s body’s reactions to ASMR videos, but not everyone agrees with the possible science behind it.

Beverley Fredborg, James Clark, and Stephen Smith from the University of Winnipeg’s Psychology Department, give their thoughts, insights, and experimental knowledge about ASMR. They explain that their findings have led them to conclude that the most common of ASMR triggers are audio and visual (Fredborg et al. par. 5). Speaking in a way that is personal yet inclusive, I am very much an auditory ASMRer, but I recognize that there are many people who are more visual ASMRers than anything else. I also recognize that there are people who are visual and auditory ASMRers. When talking about ASMR and those who get their reactions from both visuals and audios (among other possible styles), one should also talk about how it is almost fluid in the sense that it is not even percentages of how the different styles elicit the ASMRs.

Fredborg, Clark, and Smith continue their conversation by talking about the relationship between ASMR and mindfulness. They explain that mindfulness is the idea of internal tendencies while ASMR is the idea of external tendencies (par 8). I do not necessarily think that there is a cut and dry, black and white line between mindfulness and ASMR. I think that more can be internal and external, and I also think that there is a slight distinction between the two. To go along with this point, I also think that mindfulness can be external and ASMR can be internal. I think to describe ASMR to be external could even in a way bring back the conversation of the oversexualization of ASMR and ASMR videos.

Fredborg, Clark, and Smith also give insight on their ASMR study that looked at the personality traits that can relate to ASMR (par 9). I think that personality could definitely be related to ASMR. If someone has a very interactive personality, they may or may not have stronger reactions. If someone has a very non-interactive personality, they may not may not any reactions. Their study includes question-based surveys on both mindfulness and ASMR (Fredborg et al. par 13, 24, 25). I think that there is so much that could be studied just on the idea that personality could be such a huge factor in the idea of ASMR, ASMR videos, and ASMR triggers.

Fredborg, Clark, and Smith end with their idea that ASMR appears to have a direct link to mindfulness. This link being in the personality of those who experience one tending to experience the other (par 38). I think that this is such a large factor for the idea that there could be a key link between mindfulness and ASMR. This could open up a whole new discussion based purely on what causes each and what creates the link between the two. It could also bring up the idea of how some can be involved with both, how some could be involved with one or the other, or how some could be involved with neither. It also brings up the idea of what else could be linked to these personality traits. There is a lot to this topic for one to study.

Emma Barratt from Sunderland, UK, Charles Spence from the University of Oxford’s Department of Experimental, and Nick Davis from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Department of Psychology give their thoughts, insights, and experimental knowledge about ASMR. They explain their thoughts and findings of their study of ASMR and its triggers. They explain how their study uses an online questionnaire to gather participants (Barratt et al. par 11). I think going into the ideas of how ASMR and its triggers work is a start. They go on to explain how their participants favor some ASMR triggers over others, and how they preference shorter ASMR triggers over longer ones (Barratt et al. par 17). I think the idea of shorter triggers being favorable shows how ASMR plays into people shorter by nature attention spans. I think there is a lot to build off of for this topic, and I think that there is a lot more to eventually investigate about it.

Barratt, Spence, and Davis end their additions to the converation by explaining how many in the study favor realistic triggers versus nonrealistic triggers (Barratt et al. par 46). I think this is a good point to talk about with the idea of forced ASMR versus unforced ASMR. Some examples of unforced ASMR could be the realistic ideas such as whispering, chewing, and tapping. These are some natural sounds, some that wouldn’t have to be forced to create. Some examples of forced ASMR could be the unrealistic ideas such as slime squishing noises, broken plastic crackling, and popping among others. I think that Barrett, Spence, and Davis have a very good start on this research, but I believe that there is so much more that could be looked at when talking about ASMR triggers.

 Emma Barratt and Nick Davis from Swansea University’s Department of Psychology give their thoughts, insights, and experimental knowledge about ASMR. They explain their thoughts and findings of their study of ASMR and the close look they took of its triggers. I think looking closer at ASMR triggers is very crucial in the study of ASMR and how it works. I think that this a necessary step taken in moving the conversation of ASMR and how it works further.  They explain how their study gathers volunteers through interest group on Facebook and Reddit, and how their participants range in age from 18 to 54 years old (Barratt and Davis par 8). I think that it is also crucial that they have a diverse age range in this study. Many people tend to only talk about the younger generations when talking about ASMR due to it being a culture that the younger generations have, in a way, created.

Barratt and Davis continue their additions to the conversation by explaining that their study uses an online questionnaire that asks questions relating to viewing habits, preferred triggers, and noticed effects (Barratt and Davis par 9, 11, 12, 16). I think that the use of online questionnaires gives a huge opportunity for more inputs because it can be more accessible to more people. They concluded with the triggers that were found to be the most favored. “These triggers are whispering (75%), personal attention (69%), crisp sounds (64%), and slow movements (53%)” (Barratt and Davis par 20). I think this information is very important for any conversation on ASMR when one is talking about how it works. It incorporates the different parts of ASMR videos such as visuals and audios. Both of which appear to play key roles in ASMRs.

Daniella Cash, Laura Heisick, and Megan Papesh from Louisiana State University’s Department of Psychology give their thoughts, insights, and experimental knowledge about ASMR. They explain their thoughts and findings of their study of ASMR and the relation between white noise and ASMR (Cash et al. par 9). They describe their study as having 209 participants, all of volunteer based. Many of these participants are college students who are a part of Psychology courses (Cash et al. par 8). I think that this is a great way to have this study. I think there is more of an incentive for the participants if they are invested in the topic and the knowledge that can come from it. They mention that their study also includes the use of control clips (Cash et al. par 10). I think that this is a crucial aspect in the study. It allows for more accurate data to be collected. It can show the differentiation of those who experience ASMR, those who don’t, and for those who do, the different ways that they do. Some ways being through visuals, audios, or combinations of the two.

Cash, Heisick, and Papesh continue their additions to the conversation by describing their predicted results and the actual outcomes. Their predictions are based on the idea that those who commonly view ASMR triggering videos are more likely to be triggered than those who do not view them on a regular basis (par. 28). I think that this is a valid prediction, but not something that should be thought of as the end all be all of the study. One should be able to acknowledge if the results are exactly what was predicted, similar to what was predicted, somewhat different to what was predicted, or the complete opposite of what was predicted (Cash et al. par 28). Their predictions are not entirely false. The participants who view ASMR triggering videos commonly are found to have an easier time being triggered than those who don’t, but almost all participants experience the triggering at some point (Cash et al par 21). I think is such an interesting piece of information. This can change the conversation from the idea of how ASMR effects people, to how can one make ASMR affect them. It gives way to the idea that one could potentially go from never experiencing ASMR to experiencing it at will. They end with the admission that their study does not tell all that there is to know about ASMR and the ideas related to it (Cash et al. par 28). I think that this is such an important part. I added this in because I think it’s so important to acknowledge that the studying of ASMR is far from over. There are still so many things to research, and they may never all be done.

Rob Gallagher from King’s College, London gives his thoughts and insights on ASMR and why he doesn’t find any enjoyment from it. He sees that there is a growing sexualization or fetish regarding ASMR. With this idea, one can begin to ask, other than nudity, where is the line between ASMR videos and porn? I don’t believe that I am the one to be speaking of where that line is because I don’t see ASMR videos as porn. I do see it as a source of pleasure, but not to that degree. I could see where it might be sexual pleasure for some, but Gallagher appears to think that it is many more than a small portion of those who use ASMR. If I was to look at it from a devil’s advocate perspective, I could see the idea of it being viewed as being used like porn when talking about ASMR role-playing videos. The idea behind these is that the one performing the role-playing is focused solely on the viewer, creating a very personal, intimate situation. This could potentially give way to the idea of the personal, intimate situations that can be created by viewing porn.

Rob Gallagher believes that because many of the “ASMRtists” are younger, falling into the 12-24 age range, that this sexualization could stem from those who have attractions to young people (Gallagher par 4). To say that the sexualization of ASMR videos could possibly stem from pedophilia is a bold statement to make. I feel as though this is a statement that is very much a generalization. To say that a lot of the sexualization of ASMR stems from pedophilia highly generalizes the idea of the sexualization of ASMR videos. I do see where many of the so-called ASMRists are young girls, but I do not believe that there are as many viewers that are sexualizing them within the idea of pedophilia as Gallagher is suggesting. I do believe that there could possibly be some viewers who do sexualize them within the idea of pedophilia, but I think that the main source of the sexualization of ASMR comes from the viewers of role-playing ASMR.

Rob Gallagher explains other ideas in his work. He goes on to explain that many like himself who do not have positive experiences with ASMR still have strong interests in learning more about it and how it works (Gallagher par 5). I cannot relate to not having positive experiences with ASMR, but I can relate to being interested in learning more about it and how it works. There are so many aspects of ASMR to learn. He later explains that it is not surprising that ASMR has grown into the culture that it has. Gallagher finds that for the many uses that people find for it, it would be more surprising for it not to have become a part of more mainstream media conversations (Gallagher par 16). I think that this is a very valid statement, given that there are so many uses for ASMR and that so many people use it in those ways. If there are so many uses and so many people use it, it would be almost impossible for something so popular to not become mainstream and a part of its conversation. ASMR videos can be found on a plethora of websites and social media platforms such as YouTube, Snapchat, and Reddit among many others. Another part of the idea of its mainstream growth is the idea that people are becoming internet-famous by simply making videos and accounts that are solely ASMR based.

Rob Gallagher ends by making a point that ASMR is destined, like everything else online, to eventually lose its value and popularity (Gallagher par 24). I do not completely agree or disagree with this statement. I think that in time, ASMR videos will lose a bit of their mainstream popularity, but I don’t think that they will ever lose their value. So many people gain so much from ASMR that I cannot imagine it losing that value. I do see however how it could be losing its popularity already. If one looked at trends over the past year or so, they would probably see that there is a downward trend in the mainstream viewing of ASMR videos. One might also see that the Youtubers who are solely dedicated to ASMR are losing subscribers to their channels and views to their videos. Another place where one could see this is looking at the subscriber amounts for the various Subreddits on Reddit.

Jessica Roy gives her thoughts and insights on ASMR and why she finds it to be a “brain orgasm” (Roy par 1). She explains that for her, ASMR is a “strange, tingly sensation” (Roy par 2). I feel some of these sensations that Roy is describing, but I would not call them anything close to a “brain orgasm” (par 1). I think that to use that terminology for these feelings relates back to the oversexualization of ASMR that was talked about previously. The term orgasm is almost always directly related to sex, and that’s the first thing that would come to anyone’s mind when ASMR videos are described to give “brain orgasms” (Roy par 1), thus creating a sense of sexualization.

Jessica Roy goes on to explain other topics in her writing. She explains that she finds her personal ASMRs to come from sounds more than anything, but that many others can prefer sights or physical touches to sounds. I think that she is trying to acknowledge the other ways that people find pleasures and satisfactions from ASMR outlets. I recognize that some people are very much visual or physical in terms of ASMR, but I myself am very auditory. I also acknowledge that for some, ASMR requires a combination of some or all the types of ASMR styles. Roy also explains how varying people have varying levels of responses. Some have strong ones like her, and others have almost non-distinct ones (Roy par 3). I feel as though my responses are mild in comparison to how she describes hers, but they are definitely noticeable. To go along with the idea of varying levels of responses, I also think that it should be mentioned that some people do not have any responses to ASMR styles and triggers. To go along with that, it should also be mentioned that some people have adverse reactions to ASMR styles and triggers. Some experience responses of disgust or even pain. Roy goes on to describe the actions of triggering an ASMR to be “admittedly intimate” (Roy par 11). To emphasize my point from earlier, I feel as though describing ASMRs to be intimate is still going to produce the idea of a sexualization of it.

Jessica Roy ends her discussion by mentioning a situation that comes up from time to time. There is an idea that because ASMR videos tend to be created and uploaded by young and at times attractive women, there can be rude and/or inappropriate comments made on these videos (Roy par 15). I very much respect her acknowledging that there is an oversexualization of ASMR and ASMR videos, but I think that if she is going to address this issue, it needs to be done earlier than as her last point. I think that with every other idea she has shared about ASMR and ASMR videos that she is contradicting herself with this. I think that it is a big issue that should be addressed from the very beginning, and I feel that the way that she is contradicting herself is by describing all the ways that she personally oversexualizes ASMR then to turn around and describing that oversexualization as a problem. It also appears that she feels that it is only a problem when other people oversexualize ASMR and ASMR videos, not when she does it. I see this as a problem because if the oversexualization of ASMR and ASMR videos is a problem, which it is, it should always be a problem, not just situational.

 When talking about ASMR, one could simply talk about the videos that make them feel good, or make them feel uncomfortable, or even make them feel sexually pleased. Why is this? How does this work? There have been studies on this, people have given their thoughts and opinions, but have we answered these questions yet? No, not even close. There isn’t nearly enough information to determine any of this yet. We are moving in the right direction, but we are still so far from the answers that we seek. ASMR, ASMR videos, and ASMR triggers have so much power over us with their effects that there may never be answers to all of these questions, but everything has a starting point doesn’t it?

Works Cited

  • Barratt, Emma L, and Nick J Davis. “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): A Flow-Like Mental State.” PeerJ. March 2015, DOI 10.7717/peerj.851
  • Barratt, Emma L, et al. “Sensory Determinants of the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): Understanding the Triggers.” PeerJ. October 2017, DOI 10.7717/peerj.3846
  • Cash, Daniella K, et al. “Expectancy Effects in the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.” PeerJ. August 2018, DOI 10.7717/peerj.5229
  • Fredborg, Beverley K, et al. “Mindfulness and Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).” PeerJ. August 2018, https://peerj.com/articles/5414/
  • Gallagher, Rob. “Eliciting Euphoria Online: The Aesthetics of ‘ASMR’ Video Culture.” The Aesthetics of Online Videos. vol. 40, no. 2, June 2016, http://quod.lib.umich.edu/f/fc/13761232.0040.202/­­eliciting­euphoria­online­the­aesthetics­of­asmr­v ideo?rgn=main;v iew=fulltext
  • Roy, Jessica. “The Internet Gives Me ‘Brain Orgasms’ and Maybe You Can Get Them Too.” Time. 2013.
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