A laugh, a whimper and a tortured face. You sometimes ask the tickler to stop but sometimes you don’t want them to stop. The brain is confused between pleasure and agony? Tickling can be both. We don’t want it and yet we like it. In addition, it also depends on who tickles us and with what intent.

One thing is certain that only others can tickle us, in a way that it is fun and we laugh. We cannot do it ourselves. Researchers found out why in 2005. The explanation is quite simple, if we tickle ourselves, the surprise effect is simply missing. Our brain predicts when our fingers will touch us and where. As a result, it dampens the nerve signals that the tickled part of the body sends out. So these stimuli hardly get into our consciousness. Our brains simply judges them to be unimportant and discards it like unnecessary information.

Our thought process is primarily focused against signals that come from outside or is only threatened by something that is unexpected. It only takes precautionary as well as proactive measures that are difficult to assess. This includes the tickle attacks by other people. The fact that we usually react violently to it is part of a protective function of the body. We reply to the strange attraction with a defense. We twitch and move around to avoid tickling but usually start laughing. We do our best to suppress the tickling.


While it can be conclusively explained why we can’t tickle ourselves, it is unclear why tickling is so often accompanied by laughter.

Tickling can be torture

We know that it is only funny when the person who tickles us is a friend and not an enemy. Well, your enemy won’t tickle you anyway but is it so? Tickling was one of the torture methods until the Middle Ages. The victim was fixed and deprived of freedom of movement, their feet were rubbed with salt and they were left with a goat licking the salt off the soles with its rough tongue. The victim had to endure the licking by the goat without being able to defend in the slightest possible way. This led to cramps, shortness of breath and also sore feet. After that, when the battered skin was covered with salt again, the pain became agonizing.

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Darwin Explained Tickling

Goat licking is not practiced anymore but even if a comparatively harmless wasp wanders over the back of the knee, it tickles, but the laughter sticks in our throats. As evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin interpreted, Tickling, which puts you in a good mood, has a social background. It is an interaction with people who we like and stands for intimacy, care and tenderness. Laughter triggers after the first shock when the body and brain feel relieved that the trigger of the tickle stimulus is harmless. Darwin has explained it even more clearly that laughing comes from an expectation of joy or enjoyment.

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