Ever listened to an ASMR video? If you haven’t, you’re in for a treat:
Give that video a listen for a couple of minutes, or as long as you can stand it, really. Did you feel a tingle down your spine? ASMR “chill” reactions, as far as I’ve deduced from informal conversations and message board reading, seems to be a pretty consistent individual differences variable. That is, some people get chills down their spine as soon as Dr. Dimitri starts whispering. Some people (such as me) can watch the entire video and feel (relatively) regular.
Why care about ASMR chills as an individual difference variable, given that basically all differences in affect, cognition, and behavior (depression, intellect, friendliness) exist on a continuum within the human population (Wilt & Revelle, 2016), and correlate (by definition) in some way with Big Five personality (Goldberg, 1992)?
Well, the personality correlates of ASMR chill-sensitive people can inform our knowledge of biological systems of personality. For example, consider another type of chills — aesthetic chills. You know, when you listen to music and get shivers down your spine (that are nonetheless distinctly different from ASMR chills)? This is oversimplifying, but that’s a rush of dopamine. You know who gets aesthetic chills? People high in openness. By this, we can link openness to dopaminergic function in some way. Natural extensions to schizophrenics follow: they have too much dopamine, and they also exhibit clinical symptoms of high openness, like perceiving false patterns (such as conspiracy theories and paranoia).
Are ASMR chills dopaminergic? Who gets ASMR chills? Answering these questions can get us preliminarily closer to a biological understanding of human personality. While it’s not as direct as going into a rat brain, I doubt that rats get chills from watching Dr. Dimitri. Sometimes we’re forced to study people by studying people.