ASMR and What It Reveals About Your Personality

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October 30th, 2017

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Have you ever felt tingles in the back of your head or neck while listening to the sound of salmon sizzling on a pan, while watching someone folding clothes, or while getting a haircut? If the answer is yes, then you might experience Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, or ASMR. The truth is, you are not alone. Although exactly how much of the general population experiences ASMR is unclear, a quick search for ASMR on YouTube now turns up more than 1.5 million videos. ASMR is a term used for an experience characterized by a variety of tingling physical sensations triggered by different acoustic, visual, and digital stimuli, from chopping to whispering, from washing to bubbling, etc. The most popular source of stimuli is video. For instance, the trendy Korean phenomenon known as mukbang, in which a vlogger eats surprisingly large quantities of food while chatting with the audience, has an ASMR spin on it: the audible eating sounds like chewing and crunching may evoke certain ASMR sensations in the brains of some viewers.

Stephen Smith, an associate professor of psychology at the University of Winnipeg, says that only a handful of scientific studies have been done on ASMR since the name itself sounds unscientific. ASMR is considered a perceptual sensory phenomenon rather than a response or a mental disorder, according to Smith.

ASMR is also associated with specific personality traits. In Smith’s study, 290 individuals with ASMR and 290 matched controls completed the Big Five Personality Inventory (BFI; John et al., 1991); participants with ASMR also completed a questionnaire related to their ASMR phenomenology. Results showed that people who experience ASMR demonstrated significantly higher scores on Openness and Neuroticism, and significantly lower levels of Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness compared to matched controls. Hence, if you experience ASMR, you probably tend to be more creative, have a broad range of interests, and are more likely to experience sadness, anxiety, and mood swings. Being low in Conscientiousness, Extraversion, and Agreeableness means that you are more likely to dislike a set schedule, feel exhausted when socializing, and take little interest in others.

Writer: Zijing Sang

Editor: Sophia Hon


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