- Michelob Ultra
- During the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 3, Michelob Ultra aired a commercial that featured ASMR triggers.
- ASMR, autonomous sensory meridian response, is a phenomenon where whisper-level sounds can cause people to have tingling sensations throughout their bodies.
- The term, which was coined in 2010 by cybersecurity professional Jennifer Allen, has become so popular that YouTubers have turned the concept into entire careers, Business Insider previously reported.
- Common ASMR triggers include whispering, tapping, and crinkling, a 2015 study found.
- According to a 2018 study, watching ASMR videos may lower the heart rates of people who are triggered by the sounds and cause them to feel less stressed and sad afterward.
During the Super Bowl on Sunday, February 3, viewers saw a number of commercials. One for beer brand Michelob Ultra, however, was less about its visual appeal and more about its sound, as the ad centered around a phenomenon known as ASMR.
ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is a term that refers to the tingling sensation a person might experience when they hear whisper-level sounds like the crinkling of a potato chip bag, brushing of hair, or tapping of Zoe Kravitz’s fingernails against a glass beer bottle.
“ASMR…is a deeply relaxing sensation,” Craig Richard, who holds a Ph.D. in physiology and cell biology and has authored numerous works on ASMR, told INSIDER. He characterized the sensations ASMR creates as “sparkly tingles that start in your head” and then go down the spine, back of the neck, or throughout the body.
The term, which was coined in 2010 by cybersecurity professional Jennifer Allen, and its resulting sensations have become so popular that YouTubers have turned the concept into entire careers, Business Insider previously reported.
ASMR content causes a tingling sensation in the body
ASMR’s main draws, as Richard explained, are the feelings it can create. When a person hears whispering, crinkling, tapping, or other ASMR triggers, they experience tingling sensations throughout their body. But the physical sensations aren’t the only reasons people watch ASMR content. A 2017 study found that 41% of respondents watch ASMR videos to help them fall asleep, while 59% watch to relax.
Just as the reasons vary, so do the triggers. A 2015 study examined ASMR triggers and found that whispering was the most common, with 75% of participants saying it caused body tingles. 64% of participants cited “crisp sounds,” like the crackling of foil or tapping of fingernails, as triggers, and 53% said “slow movements,” like pouring water, were triggers. Although different people prefer or only react to certain triggers, they typically seek them for the same reason: the physical and emotional side effects.
ASMR content doesn’t work for everyone, but proponents say it helps with stress and anxiety
For people who experience ASMR, the sensations they feel can offer real health benefits. A 2018 study from the University of Sheffield found that watching ASMR videos may lower the heart rates of people who are triggered by the sounds. These same people may also feel less stressed and sad after viewings.
Although little research exists on the science behind ASMR, some researchers have theorized how it works. Richard, for one, said ASMR triggers could stimulate the “biological pathways” that humans use when bonding with a romantic partner, close friend, or family member, thus eliciting “similar responses like feeling comforted, feeling relaxed, and feeling secure.”
There aren’t any documented negative effects of ASMR so far, but Richard warned people against using this content as the main solution for more serious health issues.
“If someone is struggling with severe anxiety, insomnia, depression, or other clinical disorder, they should begin their care by talking to their clinician rather than expecting an ASMR video to cure them,” he told INSIDER. After seeing a professional, they can discuss incorporating ASMR as part of their treatment.
More research on ASMR’s supposed benefits needs to be done
According to Richard, more clinical studies must be done next to compare ASMR’s benefits to the benefits of existing evidence-based treatments for anxiety, insomnia, and other conditions. “I’m optimistic that ASMR will have a valuable contribution to patient wellness and healthcare in the future,” he told INSIDER.
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