Videos of people rolling bottles or jars full of drinks or food down stairs and breaking them has gone popular, and millions of people are watching them on TikTok.
Many of these videos are submitted with the hashtag #ASMR, suggesting that at least some of these viewers are interested in the autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) they elicit. Though it may not be your idea of a good time, other people find the pleasant and even calming combination of the tinkling sound of breaking glass and the sight of the bottle shattering.
Tingling or tingling sensations in the scalp or spine are common descriptions of ASMR. Millions of videos on YouTube feature people whispering or tapping their nails on an object to create soothing noises that some people experience as ASMR.
Although the videos are multi-sensory (they include both visual and auditory information), the audio component – the soft, mainly low-frequency sounds produced – appears to be primarily responsible for causing ASMR in some viewers.
An Investigation on ASMR
Researchers in the field of psychology are examining ASMR in an effort to understand its viewers’ mental processes. The neurophysiology of ASMR experiences may be better understood through studies of brain electricity. Electroencephalography (EEG) is one method used for this purpose; it involves the use of a cap equipped with electrodes to record the brain’s electrical activity.
Depending on one’s activity and emotional state, the brain’s electrical activity will either speed up (increase in frequency) or slow down (down in frequency). The electrical activity of the brain has been monitored using EEG as people watch ASMR-inducing videos and report feeling more or less relaxed as a result.
In general, a calmer mental state is connected with lower-frequency brain activity. Brain electrical activity was measured and found to decrease at higher frequencies and increase at lower frequencies in response to ASMR-inducing films. It appears that the 45-minute increase in low-frequency activity observed after watching ASMR-inducing videos was sustained.
In light of these findings, it seems likely that videos like those from the bottle-smashing fad, which are known to induce ASMR in some people, are actually changing the way the brains of those who are susceptible to it. The capacity to induce calmness is a key factor in ASMR videos’ meteoric rise in popularity. Those who are more likely to experience ASMR may also be more prone to anxiety, and movies designed to induce ASMR may aid with this condition, according to studies.
However, not everyone finds it relaxing to watch footage of people breaking bottles. Some viewers have reported anxiety and sensory overload after watching. The negative reaction might range from slight discomfort to extreme anger.
Sounds that most of us take for granted, like a pot being smashed, can be unbearably loud and distressing to those who suffer from hyperacusis. Enhanced activity in the brain’s auditory cortex may support these kinds of sensations.
In fact, some people suffer from misophonia, in which hearing particular noises causes them extreme distress. It is not known exactly what happens in the brain to cause misophonia, although it may have something to do with the strength of the connections between the auditory system and the emotional centres of the brain.
There is a range from persons who are highly sensitive to sounds (ASMR) to those who are highly sensitive to sounds (misophonia). Sound-based triggers are experienced by both ends of the spectrum, but the emotional effects of these triggers are vastly different. This could help clarify why different people’s reactions to hearing the identical sound in bottle-smashing films vary so widely.
The fad of smashing bottles causes more than just audible distress. Some viewers report experiencing stress because of the prolonged suspense. Others find them revolting because of the wasted food or drink in the films.
These movies serve as a timely reminder that everyone’s experience and connection with the (aural) world is unique; what calms one person may infuriate another.