What is tickling and why are we afraid of it?

The feeling of tickling has been familiar to each of us since childhood, but it is difficult to describe in words. It can be so strong that it is impossible to resist. All we can do when we're ticklish is make reflexive movements and laugh. But laughter from tickling is not always associated with joy and fun. This feeling cannot be completely called pleasant; moreover, there are stories that in ancient times people were tortured to death by tickling. Scientists have currently conducted a lot of research to find out the nature of this feeling, but no consensus has emerged on this matter. In addition, many questions remain unanswered, such as why humans cannot tickle themselves and why we laugh when we are ticklish.

What is tickling and why are we afraid of it? Tickling is a feeling that each of us has been familiar with since childhood. Photo.

Tickling is a feeling that each of us has been familiar with since childhood


  • 1 What is tickling and why are we afraid of it
  • 2 Is tickling necessary for social interaction?
  • 3 Why do people laugh when they are ticklish< /li>
  • 4 Why we can’t tickle ourselves

What is tickling and why are we afraid of it

First of all, we note that scientists divide tickling into two types – knismesis and gargalesis. The first type occurs as a result of a light touch on the skin, reminiscent of an insect crawling on the skin. With such tickling, you want to brush off the insect and scratch your skin. This tickling can be called mild, which does not cause laughter.

The second type is gargalesis, which occurs with a stronger impact on certain areas of the human body. It is this tickling that causes laughter, but it is not always pleasant. It all depends on how intense the tickling is, how long it lasts, and who is doing the tickling. Sometimes such tickling causes negative emotions and can be unpleasant and even painful.

According to one hypothesis, tickling is a protective reaction of the body, which humans inherited from animals of a lower class. It allows you to quickly detect an insect on the skin and remove it. That is, tickling is a peculiar response of the body to touching areas with a large number of nerve endings and blood vessels. This is, in fact, a borderline reaction to contact, which is between caress and pain.

What is tickling and why are we afraid of it? Tickling may be a feeling that we inherited during evolution - thanks to it, our ancestors brushed off insects. Photo.

But there are also other theories. For example, in the mid-19th century, Scottish scientist James Simpson argued that increased sensitivity of the body in certain areas develops before the birth of a child. This feeling helps him maintain the correct position in the womb.

At the beginning of the 20th century, American zoologist Louis Robinson suggested another version, according to which the areas most sensitive to tickling are in areas vulnerable to battle. When a child is tickled, he protects these places and thus gains combat experience, that is, learns to protect vulnerable areas of the body.

Is tickling necessary for social interaction?

It is quite possible that tickling, the kind that causes laughter, helped our ancestors and even to this day helps us communicate. The fact is that not only people, but also monkeys tickle each other. Chimpanzees tickle the babies' necks, and they smile and laugh in response. Young monkeys, one year old, offer their necks to be tickled. Moreover, a request to tickle is one of the very first communication signals that they master.

Is tickling necessary for social interaction? Monkeys also like to tickle each other. Photo.

Monkeys also like to tickle each other

People also deliberately tickle a baby, not only to amuse him, but sometimes in order to attract attention. Babies usually begin to look at their mother's face and smile. But perhaps they don't enjoy the sensation of being tickled so much as the social interaction itself.

Why do people laugh when they're ticklish

The main unanswered question is why tickling causes laughter. If tickling was a part of our evolution, it is a signal of danger. Danger is always associated with fear, but laughter during fear is a rare phenomenon that occurs as a result of severe nervous tension. As we know, many animals have another defense system – pain. It signals tissue damage and the development of pathological processes. But pain does not cause laughter.

One study showed that tickling is associated with the activity of two parts of the brain at once – one responsible for pleasant sensations, and the second for a reflexive protective function. Some scientists suggest that tickling and associated laughter are a prelude to crying from discomfort or pain. Moreover, a lot of spontaneous, uncontrolled movements are similar to a reaction to severe pain.

Why do people laugh when they are ticklish. The exact reason for laughter caused by tickling is still unknown. Photo.

The exact cause of laughter caused by tickling is still unknown

Interestingly, during a fit of laughter, the speech centers in a person’s brain are suppressed. That is why at the moment when we are ticklish, it is so difficult to utter even a word. However, if we assume that tickling is one of the mechanisms of social interaction, then everything falls into place. Laughter makes communication easier. Perhaps this is why only tickling, of all possible reactions to touch, causes laughter.

Why we cannot tickle ourselves

If you try to tickle yourself, then this attempt will end in failure. It's all about the cerebellum, which accurately determines the position of our limbs. Since danger or, for example, a communication signal cannot come from our own hand, the brain does not provoke a feeling of tickling.

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Finally, we note that not only people and monkeys experience tickling, but also many other animals. And some of them even laugh. For example, this applies to rats. If you have this animal at home, you can make it laugh as an experiment.