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Sonic Impact: The Psychology of Sound

Join Creative Director of Sound for The Guardian Podcasts Axel Kacoutié in conversation with acclaimed Director and screenwriter Peter Strickland, ASMR researcher and Psychology Lecturer Dr Giulia Poerio, and sound designer Joel Cahen, as they share personal philosophies that focus on the mechanics, perception and effects of sound.

What to expect

How do film soundtracks have the power to put us on the edge of our seats? Why does ASMR affect some people and not others? How far are sonic responses a reflection of our individual psychologies? Where will technological advances take sound design next?

Our psychological responses to sound are simultaneously entrenched in social cues, as well as highly individual. Sounds can make us feel relaxed or tense, and reactions vary from person to person. Even when divorced from the syntax of language, sound has an extraordinary power to evoke visceral responses, be it the uncannily realistic sound effects created by foley artists, or the soothing taps and strokes practiced by ASMRtists.

Responding to some of the questions raised in the exhibition WEIRD SENSATION FEELS GOOD: The World of ASMR, this panel will explore the complex interaction between sound and psyche. Creator Axel Kacoutié will chair a discussion with Director of sonic horror films Berberian Sound Studio and In Fabric Peter Strickland, lecturer and researcher Dr. Giulia Poerio and sound designer Joel Cahen considering the centrality of sound's emotive power to their work through the lenses of storytelling, film, the listening arts, ASMR, mindfulness and neuroscience. Exploring the intersection between science and art, these practitioners seek to locate sound design somewhere between and beyond the two.

This discussion will be preceded by an exclusive screening of Peter Strickland’s short film Cold Meridian, a creative response to the global phenomenon of ASMR, commissioned by the London Short Film Festival, in partnership with production company Mindwax.

Sound Massage (from We’re All Bats) by artist Rebecca Horrox.

Marianne JeanBaptiste in In Fabric. Photograph Curzon Artifiicial Eye.

Fatma Mohamed in In Fabric. Photograph Curzon Artificial Eye.

Cold Meridian. Photograph Márk Győri.

'Wet Sounds' project by Joel Cahen.

Scribbles by Axel Kacoutié


Axel Kacoutié

Axel is a multi-award-winning creator crafting sound, music, and words to revive a magic in the mundane. Their work has been featured on various TV, Radio and Online platforms and curated spaces such as Artangel and the Barbican. They are also the Creative Director of Sound for Guardian Podcasts.

Dr Giulia Poerio

A Lecturer in Psychology specialising in emotion science at the University of Essex, Dr Giulia has published widely on mind-wandering, sleep, imagination, and wellbeing. She is also the founder of ASMRNet, an interdisciplinary network dedicated to collaborative ASMR research, and has an active ASMR research stream focused on understanding trait and state ASMR.

Joel Cahen

Joel is an audio practitioner, sound designer and event producer. He produced 'We’re All Bats', a series of workshops, performances and events based on the Listening Arts, commissioned by Waltham Forest London Borough of Culture. His acclaimed project 'Wet Sounds', transforms swimming pools into sites of artistic experience and subaquatic deep listening.

Peter Strickland

Peter has made five feature films steeped in tragedy, sonic psychosis, bondage, retail nightmares and stomach problems. A fascination with and exploration of sound courses through his work, from making culinary soundscapes as part of the now dormant collective project The Sonic Catering Band, to the auditory anguish of Berberian Sound Studio (2012), ASMR influenced In Fabric (2019) and, his latest release, the gastro/culinary-acoustic drama Flux Gourmet (2022).

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Booking information

Adult: £12
Concession: £10
Members: £9

For your safety, increased cleaning has been implemented across the museum and face masks are encouraged.

A limited number of tickets are available through our Emerging Designers Access Scheme. If you are an emerging designer and facing financial barriers to attend, please register here.

related exhibition


Step out from behind your screen and experience the world of ASMR in a shared space.

Background image: Cold Meridian. Photograph Márk Győri.