Love them or hate them, ASMR videos have been flourishing on the internet for a decade. However, they don't elicit the same sensory responses in the people who watch them. A new study from Deezer looks at this brain-tingling phenomenon.
The music streaming service partnered with Censuswide to survey 12,000 people from France, Brazil, Germany, the UK, the USA and Mexico about their perception of ASMR. And it turns out that this differs enormously from country to county. For example, nearly a third of people in Brazil consider ASMR to be a "pleasant" experience, while 20% of folk in Mexico find it "intriguing." Respondents in Germany, on the other hand, are more circumspect about the trend, which some of them (19%) find "strange." The same goes for the UK, where 20% of people find ASMR "irritating."
Opinions on ASMR differ so much because the content elicits drastically different physical and emotional responses from different people. According to the Deezer study, 24% of respondents say they feel calm and relaxed when listening to it, yet a similar number (25%) they don't feel anything in particular when watching a whispering or finger-tapping video. Meanwhile, 11% report feeling shivers, chills or goosebumps.
Plus, ASMR doesn't always lead to pleasant feelings in listeners: it makes some people feel uncomfortable, bored or even irritated. This explains why a small percentage of respondents say they "hate" this kind of content, or even "strongly dislike" it.
Relaxation or entertainment?
For Dr Craig Richard, founder of ASMRUniversity.com, the starkly different opinions that ASMR provokes are far from surprising. "The data confirms people have a variety of responses and preferences for ASMR content. ASMR triggers and responses are similar to those of oxytocin, often called the love hormone. People could simply have genetic differences that influence their oxytocin response. Even factors like age can have an impact. It's possible that a positive ASMR response could fade as we get older. It's also possible that younger people are more likely to be positively introduced to ASMR content," he explains.
So is ASMR use a question of age? In any case, the study found that Gen Z was the only age group to pick entertainment as their top reason for consuming ASMR content. The biggest reasons why people tune into were to reduce stress (37%) or for comfort (35%). Meanwhile, over a quarter (28%) of respondents report listening to ASMR content to help them sleep, and 21% use it to lift their mood. Whatever the reason for tuning in, ASMR fans will be pleased to hear that Deezer has called on Alicia Keys, James Blunt, Tom Jones, Ava Max and YUNGBLUD to rerecord some of their biggest hits in "ASMR versions." Other artists will soon follow their lead, allowing ASMR fans to relax in ways other than watching the chewing videos that were a hit in the late 2000s.