Motivation and emotion/Book/2020/Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and emotion

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Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and emotion:
What emotions are involved in ASMR experiences and why do they occur?

Overview[edit | edit source]

Autonomus Sensory Meridian Responce (ASMR) is a relatively newly studied phenomon. The aim of this book chapter is to complie together and analysis the research on what emotions are involved in ASMR and why they are occuring. Specifically, we will be looking at why these experiences occur in terms of through the lens of psychological theories of emotion and their theorised origins[vague].

Due to the relatively new state of the scientific research into ASMR, some of the ties to theories of emotion are hypothesised based on potentially viable links between proven features of the ASMR effect and the elements of various emotion theories.

The book chapter serves to be a hopeful compass pointing in the direction of where future research could go[vague].

Focus questions:

  • What is ASMR?
  • What emotions are involved in ASMR?
  • Why do they occur?

What is ASMR?[edit | edit source]

Figure 1. Description of 'tingle' origin.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is described as an electric-like tingling sensation across the scalp, around the back of the neck and in various other places based on the 'triggering' audio and/or visual stimuli presented (Barratt & Davis, 2015). ASMR is a relatively newly studied sensory phenomenon that had its first proper scientific paper published in 2015. That being said it has a relatively large community that both creates and consumes media specifically designed to produce ASMR.

These ASMR producing videos are in a range of different styles, the most common being a roleplay-type video set in a personal POV perspective. These videos then feature, what is most commonly referred to as 'triggers' (sounds and actions designed to produce the ASMR effect) the most common trigger being the sound of nails tapping on various objects (Gallagher, 2018). These videos are most commonly used as a way to relieve stress, improve overall mood, and/or as a sleep aid at night. Part of the reason for this is that consumers of this content have self-reported experiencing feelings of happiness, relaxation, and an overall sense of calm (Lochte et al., 2018). The ASMR effect has been compared to musical frisson (musical chills) and other sense base phenomenon such as synaesthesia and misophonia (Barratt et al., 2017).

Fun facts about ASMR
  1. The term ASMR was coined in just 2010.
  2. Bob Ross's YouTube painting videos contain elements which are considered to be classic ASMR triggers. This is believed to have increased to both the appeal and popularity of his videos.

What emotions are elicited?[edit | edit source]

[Provide more detail]

Relaxation[edit | edit source]

The most common use of ASMR media is as a tool to relax. So, for anyone remotely familiar with this topic it should be no surprise that relaxation is an emotion involved with ASMR. Now relaxation is a complex emotion as it involves the easing of ‘negative’ emotions such as stress (Tunney et al., 2017). The physiological elements that follow the sense of calm and peacefulness that comes with allowing yourself to feel relaxed, has vast positive benefits for you physical and emotional wellbeing (Tunney et al., 2017).

Happiness[edit | edit source]

Happiness is commonly associated with dopamine; however, our 'happy' hormones include oxytocin, dopamine, and serotonin (Love, 2014). In one study of ASMR they explored an fMRI investigation and found that in the ASMR experience, the brain activated mPFC which has been shown to have oxytocin bind receptors in (Lochte et al., 2018). As the feelings experienced have all been self-reported, one other element of self-report is just an overall mood increase which could also be looked at as happiness (Barratt & Davis, 2015).

Quiz time[edit | edit source]

Choose the correct answers and click "Submit":

What does ASMR stand for?

Awesome Sounds Made Real
A Sound Meridian Reel
Anything Science Mitochondria Respiration
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response

Why do these emotions occur?[edit | edit source]

Why do emotions occur?

There are several psychological theories of emotion that account for why emotion occurs. They include biological, evolutionary, neuroscientific, psychophysical, cognitive, clinical, developmental, psychoanalytical, social, sociological, and cultural (Reeve, 2017).

James-Lange[edit | edit source]

James-Lange’s theory of emotion proposes that emotion occurs as a by-product of our body’s physiological reactions to the world around us. The ASMR effect can also be considered as a physiological reaction to specifically made stimuli. What is interesting though is people who experience the ASMR effect have self-reported improvements in symptoms of depression, and in symptoms of chronic pain by engaging with the media (Fredborg et al., 2018).

An area for further research under this theory is an exploration of the ‘mirror effect’ in ASMR media and seeing if it applies to the James-Lange theory.

Mindfulness and appraisal theory[edit | edit source]

There are links that have been made between mindfulness and ASMR. These links attempt to answer the question why do these aforenamed emotions occur, and to answer that question we also have to answer the question what causes the ASMR effect (Fredborg et al., 2018). Due to the relatively new state of the scientific research into ASMR, there is not a whole lot of concrete evidence as to what causes the effect in some people but not in others (Poerio et al., 2018). There is however enough evidence to validate the fact that the ASMR effect is in fact occurring and actually makes an impact on the body (Poerio et al., 2018).

There are a few things that we should look at involving this theory, such as the studied links between ASMR and mindfulness practice. As I believe the idea that mindfulness causes ASMR, can also lead into appraisal theory of emotion. The reason for this belief is that the development of a state of flow (even if it is subconsciously), by unintentionally participating in mindfulness while engaging in ASMR would create a positive appraisal (Lochte et al., 2018). As the individual engaging with the ASMR media is actively participating with the content and over time forming stronger positive appraisals as they continuously get the results they were after which is a sense relaxation and calm (Hayes et al., 2019; Reeve, 2017). Following the theory this would then trigger the physiological responses such as lowered heart rate, that are associated with the aforenamed emotions (Reeve, 2017).

Take away questions and thoughts![Provide more detail]
  1. What physiological response is present that causes these emotions to occur?
  2. Is ASMR more likely to have more effect on certain types of people?
  3. There is a personality aspect of people who experienced ASMR tended to score higher on 'openness to experience' than people who did not experience ASMR. Linking this with mindfulness and the appraisal theory, it is possible that the heightened state of focus and the expectation/appraisal of the media may trigger our body to go through 'programmed' settings to display an emotion.
  4. Cognitive aspects of emotion compare the mindfulness research (for why ASMR occurs) with the appraisal theorist.

Conclusion[edit | edit source]

The research into ASMR is still in its infancy and as such there is a lot of room for further exploration into what emotions accompany the experience of the ASMR effect. There is also a large gap in the research for why these emotions occur.

Overall, the emotions involved in ASMR are complex in nature and appear to be both founded in biological theories of emotion, and cognitive theories.There is much room for debate as to whether the emotions are an offset from natural physiological changes that occur when your mind focuses. On the other hand, due to their complex nature the emotions experienced could be a result of the individuals appraisal.

Further research to be conducted[vague].

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

Barratt, E., & Davis, N. (2015). Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR): a flow-like mental state. Peerj, 3, e851.

Barratt, E., Spence, C., & Davis, N. (2017). Sensory determinants of the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR): understanding the triggers. Peerj, 5.

Colver, M., & El-Alayli, A. (2015). Getting aesthetic chills from music: The connection between openness to experience and frisson. Psychology Of Music, 44(3), 413-427.

Fredborg, B., Clark, J., & Smith, S. (2018). Mindfulness and autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Peerj, 6, e5414.

Gallagher, R. (2018). ‘ASMR’ autobiographies and the (life-)writing of digital subjectivity. Convergence: The International Journal Of Research Into New Media Technologies, 25(2), 260-277.

Hayes, D., Moore, A., Stapley, E., Humphrey, N., Mansfield, R., & Santos, J. et al. (2019). Promoting mental health and wellbeing in schools: examining Mindfulness, Relaxation and Strategies for Safety and Wellbeing in English primary and secondary schools: study protocol for a multi-school, cluster randomised controlled trial (INSPIRE). Trials, 20(1).

Janik McErlean, A., & Banissy, M. (2018). Increased misophonia in self-reported Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. Peerj, 6, e5351.

Lochte, B., Guillory, S., Richard, C., & Kelley, W. (2018). An fMRI investigation of the neural correlates underlying the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Bioimpacts, 8(4), 295-304.

Love, T. (2014). Oxytocin, motivation and the role of dopamine. Pharmacology Biochemistry And Behavior, 119, 49-60.

Poerio, G., Blakey, E., Hostler, T., & Veltri, T. (2018). More than a feeling: Autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) is characterized by reliable changes in affect and physiology. PLOS ONE, 13(6), e0196645.

Reeve, J. (2017). Understanding motivation and emotion (7th ed.).

Taylor, S. (2017). Misophonia: A new mental disorder?. Medical Hypotheses, 103, 109-117.

Tunney, C., Cooney, P., Coyle, D., & O'Reilly, G. (2017). Comparing young people's experience of technology-delivered v. face-to-face mindfulness and relaxation: Two-armed qualitative focus group study. British Journal Of Psychiatry, 210(4), 284-289.

External links[edit | edit source]

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