Mood Management Theory and ASMR
Over the past seven years, ASMR has increasingly captivated audiences with its ability to relax viewers, and has come to be referred to as a “tingling phenomenon”. Internationally content creators upload videos of themselves, whispering, tapping, and even role-playing to create a soothing experience for their viewers. However, many people still wonder what it is and what it is supposed to do.
ASMR is an abbreviation of Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response which is often described as a relaxing tingling sensation that usually begins at the scalp. When asked, most people respond that they watch ASMR to alter their emotional state in some way, which is relevant to the Mood Management Theory. This theory posits that media can serve as a way to provide relief from unwanted mood states and that viewers either consciously or unconsciously choose media that accomplishes this. ASMR has been found to help people “…work through mild symptoms of stress or anxiety…”, as well as providing a way to fall asleep more easily, experience less pain, to feel better when ill, or to feel like they are being cared for by another individual. According to a study, many people felt that “…they felt better after watching these videos and for some time after, including those who scored high on a survey for depression”.
Being that Mood Management Theory assumes that “…individuals are motivated to terminate or alleviate negative affective states and to preserve and intensify positive affect” (Reinecke, Leonard. Mood Management Theory, pg. 1272), ASMR fits nicely with the theory as users choose to watch or listen to ASMR to improve their mood state. Excitatory potential, one of the four dimensions that characterize media messages in terms of their mood-altering effects, is the dimension that characterizes media as a way of effecting arousal levels of individual users. This dimension best explains ASMR’s pull on its viewers as it is a media form that is calming and relaxing that often works to decrease levels of arousal that are typically caused by anxiety. While there isn’t much research that surrounds ASMR as of yet, its growing popularity on large platforms such as YouTube and the cultural phenomenon that it has become has drawn more attention from the scientific community.