Careless WhisperTurn on, tune in, zone out: The pleasures and phenomena of half listening.

Careless WhisperTurn on, tune in, zone out: The pleasures and phenomena of half listening.

Issue 23

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Arts & Culture

"Perhaps the voices can make you tingle."

“A pleasurable headache.” “A bristling feeling as if a bug flew past my ear.” “That tickly feeling you get in your stomach when you drive over hills.”

Since the term Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) was coined six years ago, millions of devotees have struggled to describe the satisfaction they experience when listening to certain types of soothing sounds and voices.

There is an online industry that caters to coaxing these tingles—so-called ASMRtists (a full-time job for the most popular) who record videos of themselves performing pretend eye exams in hushed tones, explaining how to fold towels, or going through the contents of their make-up box and slowly tapping all the brushes. These are the simple, repetitive tasks that enthusiasts say send shivers of pleasur...

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