Whether you love a good tickle fight or loathe it with your entire being, science shows it takes at least two to tango. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London explains that the human brain has an area called the Cerebellum which controls and monitors movement. Blakemore’s studies show that because your Cerebellum can predict sensations caused by your own movement, it is impossible to tickle yourself. In contrast, when someone else’s movements cause sensations, you are thrown off guard due to the unpredictability.
Now, this may come as a relief to some, given the fear of being tickled is so strong that it’s been given its own phobia- Gargalaphobia. We all know someone with trust issues related to tickling. But what we understand now, thanks to Ms. Blakemore’s research, is that the sheer surprise of someone else’s hand causing sensations unexpectedly can be too much for some to handle.
Tickling has gone so far as to be weaponized in cultures such as China’s Han Dynasty. During this “tickle torture,” the interrogator would tickle the hostage into hysterics, often causing a psychological breakdown. Because tickle torture leaves no marks, it was a form of punishment reserved for nobility. With the harmful effects of tickling in mind, remember that some people not only dislike the feeling, but you’ll lose their trust forever if you try it.