As probably many of you, I too have sporadically come across people on YouTube that produce particular sound stimuli by whispering into the microphone or tapping on a diverse range of objects. They are trying to trigger in the viewer or listener an ‘Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response’ (ASMR), which is a sort of pleasant tingling sensation that starts from the head and descends to the neck, the arms, and along the body. The general aim of this is to favor relaxation.
However, I was completely unaware of the fact that many research groups around the world have started to empirically investigate the phenomenon. And their results are quite interesting. The book written by Marco Mozzoni has the merit of offering to the Italian reader a concise but very accurate and complete review of this literature.
The reader discovers, for example, that ASMR is associated with a reduction in heart rate but, at the same time, is also associated with an increase in skin conductance levels. This means that, as the author puts it, “ASMR is a complex emotional experience” that not only relaxes the body but also somehow activates it.
Moreover, ASMR has been shown to have the potential to regulate emotions, promoting positive feelings and a sense of interpersonal connection. With respect to this last point, users of ASMR videos often refer to a sensation of ‘human connectedness’ which has an important social dimension; in a way, the relationship between who elicits the ASMR experience and who experiences it can be conceived as a sort of simulated social grooming.
These results are intriguing. But perhaps what it is most fascinating is the possibility to use these experiences as a way to better understand the potentialities of our mind. A direction that researchers can now begin to take is indeed the investigation of the therapeutic benefits of ASMR for addressing problems such as anxiety, depression or insomnia. ASMR may thus not be only for entertainment. In the next few years, scientific research may reveal ASMR to be a useful tool for clinicians. We will see if this is the case.
The book offers an easy introduction on the phenomenon that helps the reader understand why ASMR is gaining increasing popularity. It does so not only by discussing empirical findings and contrasting ASMR to seemingly similar states such as meditation, mindfulness and hypnosis. Indeed, the book also covers a rich set of aspects concerning ASMR; from the description of the way in which ASMR’s artists on the web work, to the explanation of how ASMR is now exploited in the marketing world, just to give two examples.
It is my personal opinion that the real strength of this book is the fact that its author fully succeeded in providing the reader with carefully selected and reliable information on a phenomenon that can be otherwise relegated to being a simple curiosity deserving only scarce attention.
Link al sito web del libro, with press releases and updates
Link al sito professionale di Marco Mozzoni (in English)