July 16, 2022

Touching you, touching me: Higher incidence of mirror-touch synaesthesia and positive (but not negative) reactions to social touch in Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response


Helge Gillmeister, Angelica Succi, Vincenzo Romei, Giulia Poerio

Published on 16 July 2022, in Consciousness and Cognition


The characterisation of autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR) as an audio-visual phenomenon overlooks how tactile experiences are not just perceptual concurrents of ASMR (i.e., tingling) but also commonly strong ASMR inducers. Here we systematically investigated whether ASMR-responders show altered tactile processing compared to controls. Using a screening measure of vicarious touch with a predefined cut-off for mirror-touch synaesthesia (MTS; a condition where tactile sensations are experienced when viewing, but not receiving, touch), we found that ASMR-responders had more frequent and intense vicarious touch experiences, as well as a strikingly higher incidence of MTS, than non-responders. ASMR-responders also reported greater reactivity to positive, but not negative, interpersonal touch. Correlations further showed these patterns to be more prevalent in those responders with stronger ASMR. We discuss the implications of our findings in terms of heightened sensory sensitivity, bodily awareness, and the underlying neuro-cognitive mechanisms driving vicarious tactile perception in ASMR and MTS.