Have you noticed how many ads, particularly online, seem to whisper at you these days? Some will also show soothing and quiet scenes, often involving repetition and with attractive actors. What they are aiming for is ASMR – Autonomous Sensory Meridien Response. ASMR is a neurological response where people feel tingling in the head and neck region, often generalising to the rest of the body, and for the right person it is very pleasant – some have described it as “orgasmic”.
Certain stimuli cause the ASMR response, such as intimate communication like whispering. The reason advertisers are leaning heavily on it is that they believe that it can cause a connection with a customer like no other. Once the connection is established they believe that the customer will be much more susceptible to the sales message, although there has been little research on the topic. IKEA created an ASMR style ad which runs for nearly half an hour.
People seem to differ significantly in their susceptibility to ASMR and we are starting to see research into what causes this difference. Fredborg et al (2017) personality tested some hundreds of people and assessed them for whether they had experienced ASMR. They found that people who were susceptible tended to be:
- High on neuroticism. Neuroticism is a personality characteristic related to how emotionally stable or unstable a person is. People who are low in neuroticism tend to be resilient and not very vulnerable.
- High on openness to experience. People who are like this tend to be open to new ideas and comfortable with change. They are not conservative.
There were some other differences as well, but these were the key points. So, if you are a highly resilient person who prefers the familiar, you may well be immune to ASMR and you may well be wondering what all the fuss is about.
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Fredborg, B., Clark, J., & Smith, S. D. (2017). An examination of personality traits associated with autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). Frontiers in psychology, 8, 247.