Did you ever play the “egg game” as a child? The one where you close your eyes while a friend pretends to crack an egg over your head, giving you the sensation that the yolk is running down the back of your neck and over your shoulders? If so, then you’ve already experienced ASMR (otherwise known as Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response)!
ASMR is often explained as a pleasant tingling or relaxing sensation that starts at the top of the head and spreads down over the shoulders and back. Common ASMR triggers include hearing the sound of scissors while having a haircut, watching a person concentrate on a mundane task, hearing tapping or scratching sounds, or receiving personal attention (like getting your makeup done). A lot of people report that they originally experienced ASMR while watching Bob Ross’ painting tutorials on TV.
There has been very little research on ASMR so far, so it’s hard to say what causes the tingling, relaxing sensation of ASMR. Some researchers have noticed that a relatively higher number of people who experience ASMR also self-report experiencing synesthesia (e.g., “tasting” colors or “seeing” music) compared to the general population, leading to speculation that ASMR could be related to synesthesia.* In other words, certain sounds might be activating your sense of touch, causing you to feel as though the sounds are physically touching you.
Whatever causes the sensation of ASMR, it has a lot of potential as a relaxation aid. A number of videos have been created in the past few years with the purpose of triggering ASMR, and many people use these videos to relax or to temporarily ease anxiety, depression, or even chronic pain.
If you want to learn more about the science and history behind ASMR, ASMR University has a number of interesting articles.
If you’re interested in exploring the world of ASMR videos, visiting the ASMR subreddit is a great place to start. Different people have different ASMR “triggers,” so it may take some time to find what works for you!
*Specifically, 5.9% of study participants who experience ASMR also reported experiencing synesthesia compared to 4.4% of the general population, although this was not a statistically significant difference.