Why do we tickle?

first_imgConsidered by some to be affectionate horseplay and by others a fairly sinister form of sexual harassment, tickling has long fascinated great thinkers as serious as Plato to Darwin. Gargalesis, as tickling is scientifically known, is actually a highly evolved social behaviour since it evokes giggling only in humans and some primates. Our squeamish reaction to tickling is most likely a defence mechanism, enabling us to protect vital parts of the body. Why the armpit is so particularly sensitive to tickling is anybody’s guess. However, as a social mechanism, tickling is a vital component of parent-child bonding, and, in a slightly more bizarre way, early sibling relationships. But if you thought tickling was all good childish fun, think again. Acarophiliacs, tickle fetishists, are hiding only a couple of mouse clicks away. The Tickle Media Foundation, the largest online tickling forum, has over 50,000 members. There you can chat to like-minded ticklaholics and even share tickling porn. It is the strange pleasure/pain component of tickling which makes it so irresistible to vicious five-year olds and dominatrices alike, since both ‘touch’ and ‘pain’ nerve fibres carry the sensation to the cortex. An element of surprise is required, which accounts for the fact that you cannot tickle yourself. Moreover, it’s thought that a perceived lack of any threat is also necessary for the effect, which is why small children will respond with fright rather than laughter if tickled by someone whom they don’t know.Interestingly, you don’t have to be touched to feel the sensation of being tickled. Watch how an especially ticklish pal will continue to writhe even after the tickling has stopped, in expectation of another attack. No one knows why some people are more ticklish than others, but one thing is certain: everybody is ticklish. Some may be prepared to take their secret weakness to the grave but, sooner or later, if you’re persistent, you’ll find the magic spot. Armed with this invaluable knowledge you should be able to get whatever you like: lecture notes, library books, drinks, sexual favours. Just be on your guard against a return attack.By Hannah Carlinlast_img