CLOSE
Thinkstock
Thinkstock

Listening to Soft Voices Can Cause "Brain Orgasms"

Thinkstock
Thinkstock

For 20 minutes, soft-spoken Maria instructs YouTube viewers on the art of folding towels. Only her hands, a glossy black table, and a towel are visible throughout the video, which has more than 1.3 million views. The video isn't popular because a rash of folks are dying to learn how to fold towels. Instead, it's because an increasing number of people report experiencing autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR), a whole body tingling that listening to soft, monotone voices can trigger.

ASMR is a self-reported neurological experience that causes people who have it to experience "brain orgasms,” a tingling, pleasurable sensation that begins at the head or neck and works its way throughout the body. The most common triggers of this sensation include educational videos, having one’s hair cut, feeling empathetic, enjoying music or art, listening to slow, enunciated speech, and experiencing close personal contact. In the world of ASMR, Bob Ross and NPR hosts constitute porn. People with ASMR say it feels pleasant and loads of people watch and re-watch seemingly dull videos to spark an ASMR episode.

While people with ASMR quite passionately agree that the phenomenon exists, science isn't so sure. There are zero articles about autonomous sensory meridian response on PubMed, the clearinghouse for peer-reviewed scholarly medical articles, and many doctors think the experience is bunk. But Steve Novella, director of general neurology at Yale School of Medicine, says it likely exists, but it just hasn't been classified yet. He writes on NeuroLogical Blog:

I always start my investigations of such phenomena by asking the most basic question—is it real? In this case, I don’t think there is a definitive answer, but I am inclined to believe that it is. There are a number of people who seem to have independently (that is always the key, but it is a recent enough phenomenon that this appears to be true) experienced and described the same syndrome with some fairly specific details. In this way it’s similar to migraine headaches—we know they exist as a syndrome primarily because many different people report the same constellation of symptoms and natural history.

He hypothesizes that people with ASMR might experience little seizures sparked by auditory cues. (Apparently, some seizures feel good.) But it could also be that people process pleasure and pain differently. And for some, pleasure feels like a full body orgasm, while others have less of a visceral response. “Or, ASMR could just be a way of activating the pleasure response … all of our human brains are not clones or copy cats, but vary in every possible way they can vary,” Novella writes.

And he urges more research. Most brain imaging techniques could easily see what occurs in the brain, providing scientists with a better understanding as to why brain orgasms occur for some when Ira Glass speaks on This American Life or someone has her hair washed at the salon.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Ocean Waves Are Powerful Enough to Toss Enormous Boulders Onto Land, Study Finds
iStock
iStock

During the winter of 2013-2014, the UK and Ireland were buffeted by a number of unusually powerful storms, causing widespread floods, landslides, and coastal evacuations. But the impact of the storm season stretched far beyond its effect on urban areas, as a new study in Earth-Science Reviews details. As we spotted on Boing Boing, geoscientists from Williams College in Massachusetts found that the storms had an enormous influence on the remote, uninhabited coast of western Ireland—one that shows the sheer power of ocean waves in a whole new light.

The rugged terrain of Ireland’s western coast includes gigantic ocean boulders located just off a coastline protected by high, steep cliffs. These massive rocks can weigh hundreds of tons, but a strong-enough wave can dislodge them, hurling them out of the ocean entirely. In some cases, these boulders are now located more than 950 feet inland. Though previous research has hypothesized that it often takes tsunami-strength waves to move such heavy rocks onto land, this study finds that the severe storms of the 2013-2014 season were more than capable.

Studying boulder deposits in Ireland’s County Mayo and County Clare, the Williams College team recorded two massive boulders—one weighing around 680 tons and one weighing about 520 tons—moving significantly during that winter, shifting more than 11 and 13 feet, respectively. That may not sound like a significant distance at first glance, but for some perspective, consider that a blue whale weighs about 150 tons. The larger of these two boulders weighs more than four blue whales.

Smaller boulders (relatively speaking) traveled much farther. The biggest boulder movement they observed was more than 310 feet—for a boulder that weighed more than 44 tons.

These boulder deposits "represent the inland transfer of extraordinary wave energies," the researchers write. "[Because they] record the highest energy coastal processes, they are key elements in trying to model and forecast interactions between waves and coasts." Those models are becoming more important as climate change increases the frequency and severity of storms.

[h/t Boing Boing]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
iStock
arrow
science
Humblebraggarts Are the Worst (Science Says So)
iStock
iStock

Humblebraggarts. We all know (at least) one: that person who takes a woe-is-me tack to ostensibly "complain" about something when the real intent is to boast.

"It's noon, I haven't had a cup of coffee, and the espresso machine at this Mercedes dealer is broken. FML!"

"Have been sitting on the runway for 30 minutes. Next time I'm flying commercial instead of private."

In many ways, it's another version of #FirstWorldProblems, and social media outlets like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter have only made the practice more pervasive. As TIME reports, a new study has concluded that people see right through this fake humility—and like people less for doing it.

Researchers at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a series of nine experiments, including a week-long diary study and a field experiment, to both identify the ubiquity of the behavior and then determine its effectiveness as a form of self-presentation. Their findings, which were published in the January Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, determined that if you're going to brag, people would rather you just be transparent about it.

"It's such a common phenomenon," Ovul Sezer, study co-author and an assistant professor of organizational behavior at UNC's Kenan-Flagler Business School, told TIME. "All of us know some people in our lives, whether in social media or in the workplace, who do this annoying thing. You think, as the humblebragger, that it's the best of both worlds, but what we show is that sincerity is actually the key ingredient."

Of the 646 participants, 70 percent of them could recall a recent humblebrag they'd heard—the majority of which (about 60 percent) were complaint-based. But the study showed, overwhelmingly, that any statements that could be perceived as humblebragging (whether complaint- or humility-based) "are less effective than straightforward bragging, as they reduce liking, perceived competence, compliance with requests, and financial generosity," according to the study's authors.

"Despite the belief that combining bragging with complaining or humility confers the benefits of each strategy," the study concluded, "we find that humblebragging confers the benefits of neither, instead backfiring because it is seen as insincere.”

In other words: they're not fooling anyone.

"If you want to announce something, go with the brag and at least own your self-promotion and reap the rewards of being sincere, rather than losing in all dimensions," Sezer said—though she suggested that an even more effective tactic is to find someone else to boast on your behalf. "If someone brags for you, that's the best thing that can happen to you, because then you don't seem like you're bragging," she told TIME.

However, Sezer's final piece of advice was not to be too hasty in your dismissal of humblebraggarts as a whole. "We all do it, to some extent," she said. "I hope I don't sound like I'm humblebragging when I talk about this research."

[h/t: TIME]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios