ASMR Meaning: What Does “ASMR” Stand For?

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a fascinating phenomenon that has gained significant attention in recent years. It is typically characterized by a tingling sensation that starts at the back of the scalp and can spread to the neck and upper spine, often resulting in a calming effect for those who experience it. ASMR is most commonly triggered by specific sounds, visuals, or gentle touch, with many individuals discovering their own unique triggers that provide a sense of relaxation and comfort.

The popularity of ASMR has grown rapidly, with numerous videos and content being created to cater to the wide variety of triggers that elicit this soothing response. From soft whispers and the crinkling of paper to the intricate demonstrations of repetitive tasks, ASMR has captured the attention and fascination of a vast audience. This intriguing sensory experience continues to be explored and studied, as researchers and enthusiasts alike seek to better understand the underlying mechanisms and potential benefits of ASMR.

Key Takeaways

  • ASMR is a calming sensory experience triggered by specific sounds or movements
  • Its popularity has resulted in a wide variety of content to explore individual triggers
  • The phenomenon continues to be researched for a deeper understanding and potential benefits

ASMR Meaning

What Does ASMR Mean?

ASMR stands for “Autonomous sensory meridian response”.

“Autonomous sensory meridian response”, more commonly referred to through the popular acronym ASMR, is a feeling of relaxing tingly euphoria that some individuals experience in response to stimuli from certain audio-visual material.

This abbreviation also colloquially referred to as ‘tingles’ or ‘brain orgasms,’ the ASMR sensation is one of intense soothing bursts of tingles that begin from the top of the head and move down the neck and back, in rare and intense instances even proceeding to the arms and legs. Those who experience and swear by ASMR use online videos to relax, get rid of stress, and even to combat insomnia before bedtime. In a 2013 episode of the popular podcast This American Life, Andrea Seigel vividly compared the ASMR experience to having one’s head turned “into a snow globe.”

“Autonomous sensory meridian response” is perhaps most comparable to getting shivers down one’s spine from a powerful work of art or music, but instead of resulting from ‘being moved,’ ASMR is rather caused by audio-visual “triggers” such as someone brushing their hair, crinkling a starched shirt, whispering inaudibly, tapping on a wooden surface, and even role-playing a cranial nerve examination. The creators and personalities who seek out, explore, and record different triggers on Youtube are known as ‘ASMRtists,’ and several of them, such as Gentlewhispering and GwenGwiz, have legions of devoted fans and views ranging in the millions.

The terms “Autonomous sensory meridian response” was coined by ASMR researcher, lobbyist, and creator Jennifer Allen in 2010. She defined the parts of the definition as follows: Autonomous refers to the spontaneous element that happens involuntarily; Sensory refers to sensation; Meridian refers to a peak or climax; and Response signifies that the experience is triggered by phenomena. Although initially dismissed by skeptics as a new age invention, this acronym is rapidly growing steam and credibility in the scientific community, with research studies from the likes of the University of Sheffield not only confirming the existence of the phenomena but its undeniable physiological benefits.

ASMR videos also grew out of the whisper community, which featured Youtubers speaking softly to viewers to encourage moments of virtual interpersonal bonding, personal attention, and words and gestures of validation. Many creators also cite the “unintentional ASMR” they experienced in youth, whether from interactions with teachers, librarians, tour guides, etc, or from watching television. One television personality that is almost universally cited as the godfather or accidental pioneer of ASMR is Bob Ross, host of The Joy of Painting. Ross’s soothing baritone, careful brush strokes, and invitational bearing created a classical archetype that many ASMRtists continue to build on today.

Origin of ASMR

The concept of ASMR emerged from the curiosity of people asking each other, “Hey, does anyone else ever…?” Although ASMR had likely been experienced by individuals throughout history, it wasn’t until 2007 that the term was coined by Jennifer Allen. Allen, a cybersecurity professional, created an online group to discuss these distinctive sensations and named the phenomenon “Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response.”

The term ASMR grew in popularity since its inception, with various communities forming on the internet to share and discuss their experiences. Today, ASMR content is widely available on platforms like YouTube, where creators produce videos to intentionally trigger the sensation in their viewers. Common triggers include whispering, soft-speaking, tapping, and personal attention.

Despite its widespread popularity, ASMR remains a complex and somewhat mysterious phenomenon. There is still much to explore in terms of the science and psychology behind it; however, researchers are making strides in understanding the effects of ASMR on the brain and why certain individuals are more susceptible to it than others.

Related Terms to ASMR

Meridian: In ASMR, the term “meridian” refers to a peak or crest of a sensation, which is often experienced as a tingling feeling that begins in the scalp and moves down the spine. These sensations are typically triggered by various stimuli and can induce a deeply relaxed state in the person experiencing them.

Sensory: ASMR is rooted in the individual’s sensory processing and perception. The phenomenon is known to engage a person’s auditory and tactile senses, eliciting a range of physical and emotional responses. Sensory experiences, like those provided by ASMR, enable individuals to better connect with their surroundings and themselves.

Sensation: The tingling sensations that people experience during ASMR are usually described as pleasant and relaxing. These sensations are often felt along the scalp, neck, and spine, and sometimes even in the limbs. The unique tingling feeling is a hallmark of the ASMR experience that sets it apart from other types of sensory phenomena.

Response: The ASMR experience is characterized by a mix of physiological and psychological responses. As the individual perceives certain stimuli, their body and mind react in specific ways, such as producing tingling sensations or inducing a relaxed, meditative state. This response can vary from person to person and may also depend on the type and intensity of the stimuli.

Tingling: The tingling sensation associated with ASMR is one of the most frequently mentioned aspects of the experience. This sensation often starts at the back of the head and moves down the neck and spine, providing a feeling of calm and relaxation. Some individuals describe the sensation as a “brain orgasm,” due to its intense, pleasurable nature.

Brain: ASMR is believed to involve complex brain processes, as the sensory input from specific stimuli elicits an array of emotional and physical reactions. Further research is needed to fully understand the neurological mechanisms behind the ASMR experience, but it is clear that the brain plays a critical role in producing feelings of relaxation and tingling sensations.

Other Meanings of ASMR

  • Australian Society for Medical Research
  • A Sailor Moon Romance
  • Awesome Synchronized Metallic Rats
  • Auto Sensory Meridian Response
  • Audio Sensory Meridian Response
  • Average Spread Margin Rating
  • Age-standardized mortality rate
  • Australian Society for Medical Research

ASMR Examples in Conversations

  • Lisa: “I went on a tour of city hall last week and the tour guide totally gave me ASMR.”
  • Bob: “What do you mean?”
  • Lisa: “He was just so attentive and his body language was incredibly calming and reassuring. Even though he was talking to the whole group, it felt like a personal attention moment and his voice made me feel so relaxed and safe.”
  • Bob: “That’s kinda weird! What did it feel like?”
  • Lisa: “It felts like continuous waves of pleasure were descending down my scalp and spine. I felt the good will behind what he was saying more than the content, if you know what I mean. If the tour guide thing doesn’t work out for him, he could totally make a fortune as an ASMRtist on Youtube!”

ASMR Meaning Infographic


Frequently Asked Questions

What is the purpose of ASMR?

ASMR, or Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response, is a tingling, calming sensation some people experience in response to specific stimuli, such as sounds, visuals, or close personal attention. The main purpose of ASMR is to induce relaxation and even help with sleep and stress reduction.

How does ASMR affect the brain?

ASMR is believed to affect the brain by triggering the release of certain neurotransmitters, such as serotonin and dopamine. These neurotransmitters can have a calming effect on the nervous system, reducing anxiety and promoting overall well-being. However, more research is needed to fully understand the neurological mechanisms behind ASMR.

What are the common triggers for ASMR?

Common triggers for ASMR include sounds like whispering, tapping, and crinkling paper, as well as visual stimuli like personal attention, light touching, or hand movements. People may also experience ASMR in response to certain scents or tastes, though these tend to be less common than audio and visual triggers.

Why do people create ASMR content?

People create ASMR content to help others experience the relaxing sensations associated with ASMR. Many content creators, or ASMRtists, have built communities around their content, providing a supportive environment for those who experience ASMR and seek guidance in finding their specific triggers.

How can ASMR be used for relaxation?

ASMR can be used for relaxation by immersing oneself in the various stimuli known to elicit the response. This can be achieved through watching ASMR videos, listening to ASMR audio, or engaging with in-person ASMR events. By focusing on the tingling sensation and calming content, individuals can experience deep relaxation, reducing stress and anxiety and potentially even improving sleep quality.

What are the various ASMR styles?

There are several different styles of ASMR, including Whisper ASMR, Soft-Speaking ASMR, Sound-focused ASMR, Roleplay ASMR, and Tactile ASMR. These styles cater to different preferences and triggers, offering a wide range of content for those seeking the calming effects of ASMR.