Videos that satisfy the brain

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Oddly Satisfying videos get millions of views online, even though they sometimes seem bland.

The spoon slowly dips into the bowl of pink toy sand and lifts out balls. The sand crunches and deforms, the bowl wobbles. The whole thing in close-up, once forwards and once backwards – nothing else happens. The YouTube video was clicked 116 million times. Strange? That’s exactly what the trend behind it is called: “Oddly Satisfying” – strangely satisfying.

The internet is full of oddly-satisfying videos: bars of soap being cut into tiny pieces, water cascading down a flight of stairs, fruit being artfully sliced—there’s an audience for just about anything. A particularly successful German channel with more than six million subscribers is “Ice Cream Rolls”. You can see how two hands with spatulas prepare ice cream on a chilled metal plate, using a wide variety of ingredients: from energy drinks to broccoli.

Exciting noises and a slight tingling sensation

The channel not only promises its audience Oddly Satisfying, but also “ASMR”. ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. There is no good German translation. It’s about noises that are supposed to have a relaxing effect or trigger a slight tingling sensation. You can hear the packaging of the ingredients crackling, the spatula scraping over the metal plate – no speech, no music. In other ASMR videos, people stroke microphones with brushes or fingers, turn the pages of books or whisper into microphones. Some say it even helps them fall asleep.

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But why are these videos so popular and what is satisfying about them? According to David Daniel Ebert, they could serve as breaks from everyday digital life. He is Professor of Clinical Psychology at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam and deals with online psychotherapy, among other things. Oddly-satisfying videos often featured repetitive and quiet actions. Users only have to process a small amount of information and can focus their attention on a few impressions. In everyday life, on the other hand, they are often overly stimulated by countless pieces of information. He compares the videos to mindfulness exercises and counting sheep.

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According to Ebert, there are still no studies on the visual effect. Only the ASMR phenomenon has already been researched a bit. According to studies, it actually causes psychophysiological changes in some people, says Ebert. The heart beats calmer, the mood brightens.

For the psychologist, the attraction of the oddly satisfying videos could also have something to do with the fact that they often show manual activities and many people hardly ever work with their hands in everyday life. Trend researcher Ulrich Köhler agrees: “The attraction of these Oddly Satisfying videos is primarily that I see activities, manual activities (…), i.e. things where I have a feeling of structure, of a certain feeling of touch .” That is the longing for the real experience in an increasingly digital world.

But where does this trend come from? “The history of oddly satisfying videos probably goes back to commercials,” says Köhler. Television and cinema advertising often show highly exaggerated, particularly appealing images. “Whether someone bites into chocolate, whether it’s the ice cream that’s taken out of the box.”

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Created on Reddit

Youtube names the videos of a mixer manufacturer as probably one of the first oddly satisfying formats. Under the heading “Does it mix?” the videos show what happens to marbles or an iPod in a mixer. The YouTube channel has existed since 2006. The German YouTube channel “HaerteTest” is similarly destructive. Among other things, it shows in close-up how smartphones, fruit or a cactus are run over by a car. According to YouTube, more than nine million followers make the account the second largest German channel.

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And where does the term Oddly Satisfying come from? “To the best of my knowledge, this exact terminology originated on the online platform Reddit,” says trend researcher Köhler. In a forum, users would have dedicated themselves specifically to these videos. The term has also arrived in advertising. In a video, automaker BMW shows “oddly satisfying BMW moments”: close-ups of ice scrapers, a perfectly packed trunk or dirt washed away by a high-pressure cleaner.

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